Lionel Messi’s 20 greatest moments of the decade (2010-20)

Tottenham Hotspur v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B

Lionel Messi has cemented his status as the greatest player in football history over the past 10 years.

The Argentinian scored 579 goals for club and country between 2010 and 2019 and won the Ballon d’Or five times.

He also won 23 trophies with Barcelona, including seven La Liga titles.

It’s been a truly phenomenal 10-year stretch.

To perform at such a high level so consistently - Messi scored at least 50 goals in nine calendar years - is remarkable.

There have been plenty of memorable moments and we’ve decided to pick our favourite 20.

It was tough to reduce the list to just 20 so be sure to let us know if we’ve missed any out.

The moments haven’t been ranked. Instead, they’ve simply been placed in chronological order.

Let's get going.

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League

Four goals against Arsenal 

Messi ran Arsenal ragged when Barcelona hosted the north London side in the Champions League quarter-final in 2010.

Arsenal were actually in position to cause an upset. The first leg finished 2-2 and Nicklas Bendtner scored in the 18th minute of the return fixture to put the Gunners 3-2 up on aggregate.

But then Messi took over with a masterful solo display to book Barcelona’s place in the semi-final.

He scored his first goal two minutes after Bendtner had given Arsenal the lead in what was to be a 21-minute hat-trick for the Argentinian.

He added his fourth goal two minutes from full-time, slotting beyond Manuel Almunia thanks to a beautiful assist from Xavi.

Barcelona v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League

Solo goal against Real Madrid 

In 2011, Messi scored one of the greatest goals of his career in a Champions League semi-final game at the home of Barcelona’s rivals.

Messi gave Pep Guardiola’s side the lead in the 76th minute and added a second shortly afterwards with a truly majestic finish.

The Argentine collected the ball just inside Real Madrid’s half and played a one-two with Sergio Busquets.

He then skipped away from Lassana Diarra before taking the ball past Raul Albiol, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo before slotting the ball past Iker Casillas with his right foot.

For 10 seconds, Messi went into God mode.

Performance against Man United in Champions League final

Sir Alex Ferguson labelled Pep Guardiola’s side the best team he’s ever faced as a manager and on May 28, 2011, he had no answers for Barcelona’s magic at Wembley Stadium.

Messi was named man of the match after an extraordinary showing in which he gave the Red Devils fits all evening.

The highlight came in the 54th minute when he restored Barcelona’s lead with a thumping finish from 20 yards out.

Messi collected the ball 30 yards out, advanced forward and then drilled it beyond Edwin van der Sar.

Then, with 20 minutes remaining, Messi played a part in David Villa’s goal with a brilliant dribble that left Luis Nani and Patrice Evra seeing ghosts.

“Messi is the best player I have ever seen and perhaps the best player I will ever see,” Guardiola reflected after the forward’s display.

“We play very well and have great players but without him we would not be able to play the way we do, he gives us that extra cutting edge, a step up in quality.

“We have hard work, talent and tactics that help the players feel comfortable, but Messi is unique, irreplaceable, impossible to duplicate.”

Free-kick against Atletico Madrid 

Barcelona needed a moment of magic to beat Atletico Madrid in 2012 and they got one from Messi.

He scored a wonderful free-kick from an impossible angle in the 81st minute to seal a 2-1 win for the Blaugrana.

While Atletico Madrid’s players were still getting organised, Messi stepped up and looped the ball up and over a stunned Thibaut Courtois.

Atleti’s players protested to the referee but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Messi had no right to score from that position. But that rarely stops him from producing moments of genius.

Five goals against Bayer Leverkusen 

Messi became the first player in history to score five goals in a Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen in 2015.

He scored twice before half-time and added three more after the break.

“His class is just extraordinary, there's no discussion,” Bayer Leverkusen boss Robin Dutt said.

“Without Messi, Barca are the best team and with him, they are in another galaxy."

Messi’s performance earned him a rare 10/10 rating from L’Equipe.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel M

91 goals in a single calendar year

We may never see a better single calendar year than Messi’s 2012.

His five goals against Bayer Leverkusen contributed to a stunning return of 91 goals in 69 matches.

He broke Gerd Muller’s record for most goals in a year when he scored his 86th against Real Betis on December 9.

And he added five more before the end of the year to cap the best individual year in history.

FC Barcelona v Valencia CF  - Liga BBVA

Performance in comeback against AC Milan

Barcelona needed to overturn a 2-0 deficit against AC Milan to reach the reach the quarter-final of the Champions in 2012/13 and thankfully, Messi delivered a masterclass.

He scored Barcelona’s first goal with a wonderful finish from the edge of the area into the top corner in the fifth minute. The goal came following a lovely, incisive move from the Spanish side.

Messi made it 2-0 five minutes before half-time with a low drive from outside the box.

The Argentinian played a role in Jordi Alba’s late goal that sealed a 4-0 victory and put a cap on a fine individual display.

FC Barcelona v AC Milan - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

El Clasico hat-trick

Messi scored a hat-trick to settle a dramatic clash against Real Madrid in March 2014.

His three goals, which included two penalties, saw him become the all-time top scorer in El Clasicos with 21 goals, surpassing Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano.

It was also his second hat-trick in a row after he hit three against Osasuna the week before.

Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino said afterwards: “(Messi has) put in many performances like the one he put in today, but the impact is greater in a Clasico.

“I really have run out of words for him."

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga

2014 World Cup Golden Ball

The 2014 World Cup didn’t go Messi’s way, with Argentina losing to Germany in the final, but he did walk away with the award for the tournament’s best player.

Messi scored four goals in Brazil, including a brilliant winner against Iran, to join a list that includes Pele, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane as winners of the Golden Ball.

Germany v Argentina: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final

THAT performance against Bayern Munich and Jerome Boateng 

Messi produced a virtuoso performance against Bayern Munich on May 6, 2015.

And his second goal was a moment of magic in which he humiliated Jerome Boateng.

The Barcelona star left Boateng sprawling on the turf with one deceptive touch before dinking the ball over Manuel Neuer with his right foot.

Genius.

Nutmegging James Milner

“I won’t be the first and I won’t be the last who got megged by him.”

James Milner said that four years after being nutmegged by Lionel Messi while playing for Manchester City in 2015.

It was an utterly humiliating nutmeg. Milner never saw it coming - he was left on all fours after Messi made him his latest victim.

Just look at Pep Guardiola’s reaction…

Solo goal against Athletic Bilbao 

That goal against Real Madrid may not have even been Messi’s best solo goal of the past decade.

In the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao in 2015, he scored a goal that was nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award.

Messi retrieved the ball in a harmless position on the right flank in the first half. Well, we thought it was harmless.

How do I tell my kids that he scored from here?

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The No.10 managed to dance his clear of the three markers, cut inside and then smashed a low drive into the near corner.

Bilbao’s defenders could do nothing about it. They were simply beaten by a moment of magic.

Trick penalty against Celta Vigo 

Messi and Luis Suarez sent the internet into meltdown with their trick penalty against Celta Vigo in 2016.

The Blaugrana were awarded a penalty with 10 minutes remaining of a game they were about to win.

Suarez was on a hat-trick and was looking to move clear of Cristiano Ronaldo in the battle to be La Liga’s top goalscorer, but it was Messi who stepped up to take the penalty.

However, he gently tapped the ball to his right and Suarez burst forward to score past Sergio Alvarez in the Celta Vigo goal.

Some thought it was disrespectful but not Gary Lineker, who remarked on Twitter: “Disrespectful to who? It was fun. Football should be fun & entertaining.”

The late Johan Cruyff pulled off a similar trick while playing for Ajax in 1982 and it was a nice way of Messi and Suarez invoking memories of Cruyff’s career.

92nd-minute winner and iconic celebration against Real Madrid

James Rodriguez looked to have secured a point that would keep Real Madrid top of La Liga when he equalised in the 85th minute in El Clasico in April 2017.

Barcelona’s hard work looked to have been undone. They recovered a 1-0 deficit to lead 2-1 thanks to goals from Messi and Ivan Rakitic but they looked like leaving the Bernabeu with just a point.

But Messi wanted all three.

He scored in injury time to stun the home crowd and then produced an iconic celebration, taking off his shirt and holding it aloft in front of the Real Madrid fans.

It was another memorable image to add to Messi’s gallery.

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Hat-trick against Ecuador

Argentina were in real danger of missing out on the 2018 World Cup.

They entered their final group game in sixth place and needed a top four finish to make it to Russia.

And their task became even more difficult when they conceded inside 38 seconds.

But luckily for them, the best player in the world is Argentinian.

And he put his country on his back and carried them to the World Cup with a superb hat-trick.

Messi stepped up when Argentina needed him the most.

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Goal against Nigeria at 2018 World Cup 

Argentina were facing the prospect of an early exit from the World Cup.

They had just one point after two matches - a 1-1 draw against Iceland being following up by a 3-0 defeat to Croatia - and needed to beat Nigeria in their final group game to stand a chance of reaching the knockout stage.

And Messi set them on their way to a vital 2-1 win with an exquisite goal in the 14th minute.

Ever Banega played a long ball over the top which Messi expertly controlled with his left thigh.

Another touch put Messi in a position to shoot and he dispatched an emphatic right-footed drive beyond Nigeria’s Francis Uzoho.

Argentina’s players looked to be hoping for Messi to pull them out of trouble and he delivered with a great goal in a must-win match.

Destroying Tottenham at Wembley

Messi produced one of the great Champions League displays at Wembley Stadium in October 2018.

Tottenham had no answers for his talent. He scored two goals and played a part in all four as Barcelona stormed to a 4-2 win.

“Messi doesn't surprise me,” Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said afterwards.

“He is the best in the world. With a lot of space it is unbelievable how he runs and dribbles.

"In the second half he was decisive. He's got that capacity and hunger for scoring."

It was a display that reminded football fans that Messi would tear up the Premier League if he were to ever play in England's top flight. He was phenomenal.

Tottenham Hotspur v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B

Given standing ovation by Real Betis fans

You know you’ve put on a show when the opposition fans give you a standing ovation and start chanting your name.

That’s exactly what happened when Messi scored a hat-trick against Real Betis in March 2019.

Messi scored a delightful free-kick in the 18th minute, added a second just before half-time and completed the 51st hat-trick of his career with a superb lob over Pau Lopez in a goal that was nominated for the 2019 Puskas Award.

The home crowd realised they were watching a genius and rose to their feet to applaud Messi.

They even joined in with the Barcelona fans chanting his name.

Free-kick against Liverpool in Champions League semi-final 

Alisson Becker was arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in 2019 but on May 1, he could do nothing about Messi’s sensational 30-yard free-kick at Camp Nou.

With Barcelona leading Liverpool 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie, Messi appeared to have sealed the tie when he curled home a stunning set-piece that evaded Alisson’s grasp.

Messi couldn’t have placed the ball any better.

It was a special way to score his 600th Barcelona goal and will be remembered for a long time despite the club’s collapse in the return leg.

Sixth Ballon d’Or win

Messi had to cope with being tied with Cristiano Ronaldo for most Ballon d’Or wins until he won his sixth on December 2, 2019.

Ronaldo wasn’t Messi’s closest rival for the award - Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk was - but the Argentina international came out on top after helping Barcelona to another La Liga triumph.

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It was a privilege to watch Messi over the past 10 years.

We've seen Messi rise from a young talent with ambitions of becoming a legend to the greatest player in the history of the game.

He's 32 years old now and at this point, he's simply adding gloss to a remarkable career.

Thank you, Lionel, for everything you've given us.

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