Perhaps the one thing that separates great players and good players is their ability to produce big moments when it matters most.
Big-game players are worth their weight in gold and there’s no doubt that Lionel Messi belongs in that category.
The Barcelona and Argentina maestro has won crucial matches for both club and country throughout his illustrious career, just as other legends of the game have down the years.
Messi has won four Champions League titles with Barça and made a key contribution in three of the finals.
In 2006, he wasn’t deemed fit enough to feature against Arsenal and so was left out of the squad, much to his bitter disappointment at the time. However, he would eventually make up for that by starring in the 2009, 2011 and 2015 finals.
Messi scored in the 2009 and 2011 finals, both against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
The South American forward netted a rare header in the 2009 final in Rome, and then beat the same goalkeeper (Edwin van der Sar) with a low drive at Wembley two years later.
Barça secured a convincing 3-1 victory over United and Messi was named both UEFA and Fans’ Match of the Match following a typically mesmeric performance.
A one-and-a-half-minute video of Messi schooling Man Utd’s players that evening was posted on Twitter over the weekend - and it’s gone viral.
Watch it here...
It serves as a reminder of just how special this individual performance from Messi was.
In one of the biggest matches of his career, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner roasted the Red Devils with a breathtaking display of footballing wizardry.
Messi was up against the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney - some of Europe’s best players at the time - and he made them all look ordinary.
Nani, Antonio Valencia and Park Ji-Sung are probably still having nightmares about what Messi did to them that evening.
Although Ferguson was desperate to exact revenge over Barça following the defeat in Rome two years earlier, all he could do was hold his hands up and admit his players had lost to a superior team.
“In my time as a manager, I would say they're the best team we've faced,” Ferguson conceded. “Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It's not easy when you've been well beaten like that to think another way.
“No one has given us a hiding like that. It's a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football.”
Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, summed up what most football fans were left thinking about Messi after this performance.
"Lionel is the best player I have ever seen,” the Catalan coach said, “probably the best player I will see.”News Now - Sport News