Another Clasico has come and gone and with it another spellbinding display from Lionel Messi. Fine wine doesn’t age this well.
The preseason narrative surrounding the career of the 30-year-old was one of inevitable decline but instead we see the diminutive maestro having one of his greatest seasons yet.
Rewind just four months to the scene of the Santiago Bernabéu and Football Club Barcelona put in a nefarious performance against archrivals Real Madrid. The critics decried the performance. Many believed that Messi and the Blaugrana’s best days were long gone.
Instead we’ve witnessed Barcelona’s La Liga campaign become one of reinvention and the success is plain for all to see.
The once vaunted 4-3-3 formation has become a mere memory in recent weeks. Instead we see coach Ernesto Valverde employing a slightly less rousing, yet decidedly lucrative 4-4-2.
Despite such tactical diversity, Leo Messi continues to display his superiority by flourishing in this new look team. The greats always adapt.
The Argentine leads La Liga with 15 goals in 17 appearances and is second in goal assists with six but more importantly he’s shown that regardless of his position on the pitch, he can dominate a game like no other.
Conversely, we see his biggest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to make his mark. Despite equalling Messi’s record five Ballon d’Or’s last season, Ronaldo has been left in Messi’s wake this season. Daylight separates them.
Going in to last weekend’s El Clásico, es una final (it’s a final) was a cliché that was thrown about all too often but Real Madrid came out in the first half as if it was indeed their last chance to claw their way back into contention in the league.
It was clear from the first minute that Zidane’s tactics revolved around stopping Messi. He employed Mateo Kovačić to man-mark him and it would eventually be the downfall for Los Blancos.
The first half of the game produced little in the way of a highlight reel but the second stanza was a feast for the eyes of Barca fans.
Messi had a hand in all three goals scored by the Blaugrana. The first from Suarez occurring due to Kovačić’s unwillingness to leave Messi alone, a sublime penalty strike for the second and a boot-less assist to Vidal for the final nail in the coffin.
Once more, El Clásico left us with an everlasting image of Lionel Messi.
This time we saw Messi with the likeness of a deity. His arms outstretched and eyes facing the heavens, as if channelling some kind of higher power. It was a performance that one Spanish newspaper labelled ‘celestial.’
Messi is indeed out of this world. His play this season has reached a level we’ve not seen from the virtuoso in many years and in the process he’s solidified his position as the best player in world football.