During the first half and following on from the final quarter at the Emirates, Arsenal showed Barcelona do have a soft centre, unfortunately, they also have a razor sharp tip with that absolute diamond Lionel Messi at its sharpest point. By his standards he was fairly quiet during the first leg, he more than made up for it at the Camp Nou with a display of absolutely unparalleled quality. Arsenal, like so many before them were powerless to stop him as the XI Gunners on the pitch became just as transfixed by the mercurial magician as the 94,000 in the stands and the millions watching worldwide.
In this sort of form Messi is out in front on his own as the best player in the world and it is difficult not to suggest he is playing the best individual football of all time. Cross-generation comparisons are a dangerous game, but there are very few players that have operated at the level that Messi has over the past few years. Although, when analysing Messi, we cannot simply talk about the goals, or the volume of them, but it is the quality and individual brilliance of them which sets him apart. The ability to score goals no other player can, at times and on occasions when they are needed, excelling himself when you thought his previous achievements could not be furthered. Time and time again Messi is the scorer of these unique, freakish goals which should cherished for years, the fact he scores them week in, week out, almost ruins their brilliance. The simple matter of the fact is, the boy is so good, we often take for granted just how good he is, until, like last night, a performance of unbound superlatives provokes us into song once again. Simply, nobody else does this, or is even remotely close to being able to. That is the difference.
If you look at goals as the bottom line figure, Cristiano Ronaldo has a virtually identical goalscoring record as Messi over the last three years. Messi has netted 93 goals in 133 games in all competitions since the start of 2007/08. Ronaldo also has 93 goals, in fewer games, 129, yet there are few observers now, on the back of Messi’s antics, who would suggest the world’s most expensive player is indeed the best. Since shifting from Manchester to Madrid, Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in 27 games, again comparable to Messi, and a good enough return for him to be commanding a greater portion of this ‘world’s best’ debate. Yet his efforts pale into insignificance when Messi is in such utterly devastating form. What sets Messi so far apart from his peers, is that his goals, his skills and his danger cannot be replicated, or, more to the point, stopped. There is absolutely no argument that he is by far the best about, and at 22, barring injury, that status will be safe for some years to come.