Barcelona versus Bayern Munich was a match-up of the two best teams on earth. A collection of players unlike any other you could find on the planet, 22 of the world’s greatest all on the field at the same time.
And then Lionel Messi decided that he was going to win the match all on his own.
In a match full of stars and brilliance, Messi managed to be better than every other player combined. He broke down Bayern by himself and then beat Manuel Neuer, who at that point looked downright unbeatable. On the greatest stage, with the greatest players, it became the Lionel Messi Show.
It all started in the 77th minute, when Messi found some space, and then found the near post.
You can’t give Messi space, even from 20 yards. It doesn’t matter that you shouldn’t concede on the near post from there, and certainly not if you’re the best goalkeeper in the world, but rules don’t apply to Messi. Not even physics does.
Seriously, Messi has no respect for physics. And he has even less respect for Jérôme Boateng as a man.
Because breaking a scoreless tie in a Champions League semifinal wasn’t enough, Messi had to go and do that. He had to break Boateng’s soul and leave him a human being in name only. No one will look at him like a person again. It was a level of maliciousness on Messi’s part only exceeded by his brilliance.
It was only a year ago that Messi was in the midst of his worst season since he was a teenager. People questioned if he was past it, finally going to succumb to injuries. Cristiano Ronaldo won a second consecutive Ballon d’Or and people discussed, in all sincerity, who the best player in the world really was.
So much changes in a year. So much changes in three minutes. That’s how long it took Messi to go from on the way down, to the best in the world again, and then to win a Champions League semifinal first leg all on his own.
Neymar added a late goal, something that may come in handy when Barcelona go to Munich for the second leg, but make no mistake: this match was over in the 80th minute. That is when Messi looked around the field and saw nothing but amazing players. He looked around the Camp Nou and saw nearly 100,000 people gazing upon the best match-up the world could offer. Then he considered the millions of people around the world.
And with that in mind, he decided, “Screw it, I’m better than them all and this is my sport. The world might as well be here just for me.”
He was right.
It was 21 of the best in the world vs. Messi. And Messi won.