BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 07: Lionel Messi celebrates one of his many Champions League goals this season. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
How good is Lionel Messi? It's gotten to the point where the only competition is himself. And he's beaten himself now. After converting a pair of penalties against AC Milan, he has set the single-competition record at 14 goals, beating his own previous mark of 12.
The scary part? There are at least two if not three more matches left for him to add to the total (depending on if Barcelona make the final). More scary? Messi was rested in the last group game as Barça's bench players and reserve team ran riot on BATE Borisov and won 4-0. How many would he have if he had played? Still not sufficiently spooked? How about this: Messi is also tied for first in assists in the competition.
This was supposed to be a weakness in his game. Messi misfired on a few penalties earlier this season, and the talk began. Of course, everyone is human and luck plays a part when taking penalties. But it seems having the slightest imperfection when you're so nearly perfect makes it seem that much worse.
The number ten delivered in the clutch and his team are through to the semifinals, but this performance was just another day in the office for the Argentine ace. His real feat this season was his single-game record-setting five goal haul against Bayer Leverkusen, a first in the Champions League era.
He's tied for fourth all-time in career CL / European Cup goals with 51, but this is a record the 24-year-old is expected to smash. Raúl is first, with 71 goals in 154 games. If Messi keeps his current ratio (and this includes games he played as a teenager) and plays as many games as Raúl, the genius from Rosario will have netted 120 goals. Are your eyes popping out of their sockets yet?
If Leo were to finish top scorer (he's three goals ahead of Mario Gómez, who himself is having a fantastic season) he will have reached an unprecedented fourth scoring title in a row. The most times anyone has won the award is when Gerd Müller won it four times in the 70s, but not in consecutive fashion. He is the first player ever to score four or more goals in two different games, and tied for most hat tricks in the Champions league era with three
The "best player ever" debate may rage on, but Messi is well on his way to having a nearly bulletproof claim to being the best player in the history of the Champions League / European Cup. And let me say this again, because it bears repeating: he's 24.