Lionel Messi perfected the 'Panenka free-kick' during Barcelona vs Espanyol in 2019

  • Kobe Tong
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Lionel Messi treats football like his sandbox.

To the Barcelona superstar, the beautiful game is nothing more than the studio in which he creates, shapes and moulds moments of brilliance that leave both opponents and viewers astonished.

Particularly during his prime, Messi seemed to ghost through opposing teams and players as though they weren't even there, massaging the very fabric and reality of the game of football itself.

Messi: One of sport's greatest ever

He would find the net like a God-like figure wading through the heavens and planes of existence itself -- ok, ok, you probably get the impression that I think he's a decent footballer, right?

And my deliberately over-the-top descriptions aside, I think it goes without saying that Messi has left a greater influence on football than 99% of players combined.

After all, regardless of whether you think the 33-year-old is the greatest player of all time, you'd be absolutely barmy to deny that he deserves a seat at the table of sporting icons.

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Messi's penchant for invention

And as I was referring to, one of the most colourful and beautiful feathers in Messi's cap is his ability to invent skills, tricks and movements that were previously thought to be impossible.

Sure, that ability to synthesise footballing uniqueness is most apparent in mavericks such as Ronaldinho, but make no mistake that Messi has raised the sport to new heights of technical ability.

So much so, in fact, that I could probably write an entire series of articles on moments where Messi decided to look at everything previously achieved in football and said: 'yeh, I can raise that'.

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Messi's 'Panenka free-kick'

However, in the world of declining attention spans and snackable media, we thought it made more sense to whet your appetite with one particular moment of genius that springs to mind from 2019.

And if you're reading this article, then the chances are you already know that we're on about the moment that Messi patented what we like to call 'The Panenka free-kick'.

It really is as badass as it sounds, so if you weren't lucky enough to see it at the time or just can't wait to reminisce on its sheer nonchalance, then be sure to check out the Messi magic below:

Oh mama. Somebody call me an ambulance.

Football: Messi's sandbox

While, yes, I'm well aware that it takes a deflection off Victor Sanchez's head before rippling the net, I can't help standing up and applauding the absolute cojones required to even use that technique.

And yes, I'm also aware that Messi took similar free-kicks against Atletico Madrid and Almeria before this, but in this writer's humble opinion, his Espanyol effort resembled a Panenka penalty the most.

Regardless of any of those imperfections, though, we really would have become numb to Messi's class if we moved into a world where we're raising our noses to moments of genius like that. 

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And that's a key point to take from this trip down memory lane because with Messi's career entering its twilight years, it has never been more important to treasure his impact on the sport.

Because of all the GOATs in the paddock, none of them have left more footprints on their field than Messi.

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