Lionel Messi provided the perfect response to Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick with two goals and two assists in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
Philippe Coutinho, Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele also got on the scoresheet as Barcelona beat Lyon 5-1 to reach the quarter-finals.
It took Messi just 18 minutes to break the deadlock when he produced a Panenka penalty of the highest quality.
Barca soon extended their lead before Lucas Tousart scored a vital away goal for the away side to make it 2-1, both on the night and on aggregate.
With 15 minutes remaining tensions were rising at the Camp Nou, but up stepped Messi with a trademark dribble and finish to give Barcelona a two-goal advantage.
The Argentine then capped yet another virtuoso performance with assists for Pique and Dembele in the closing stages.
“We went for the match from the start and moved the ball around well,” he said afterwards. “There was a bit of suffering after they made it 2-1 as we’d made it tough for ourselves at a set piece.
“They hadn’t done anything until then. Luckily we then made it 3-1 and we could be calm again. The goal for the 3-1 had a bit of suspense, but luckily the ball made it.
“At 3-1 we found a lot more space and we could come out quickly on the counter attack.”
It’s a wonder where Barcelona would be without Messi, whose goals and assists have allowed the Blaugrana to challenge on all fronts this season.
Lyon’s Nabil Fekir spoke about the 31-year-old after the game and summed up his influence on games to perfection.
“We played a good game, but history’s best player made it impossible for us,” explained Fekir, per El Periodico.
“When he’s not scoring he’s assisting. When he’s not assisting he’s play-making. It was impossible. He is impossible.”
That’s the Messi effect for you.
Barcelona’s star man is widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time and a poll from Gary Lineker has reinforced that notion.
In light of Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, Lineker asked his Twitter followers to vote on who the GOAT really is.
Over 380,000 fans participated and Messi came out on top by some distance with 62% of the vote – which you can read all about here.