Lionel Messi is making Copa America 2021 his playground.
Messi shining at Copa America
The Barcelona superstar was at the top of his game as Argentina booked themselves a place in the semi-finals with an emphatic 3-0 win over Ecuador on Saturday night.
An absolute masterclass in Goiânia saw Messi win his fourth Man of the Match award in just five appearances at the competition, boasting an astonishing record of four goals and four assists.
It's staggering to think that Messi is topping the goalscoring charts at one of the biggest international tournaments in the world when he's just blown out the candles on his 34th birthday cake.
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Argentina 3-0 Ecuador
And Messi couldn't have consolidated his lead in the Copa America Golden Boot race in more stunning fashion than with the gorgeous free-kick he fired past Ecuador this weekend.
Entering stoppage time at the Estádio Olímpico Pedro Ludovico, VAR was examining a penalty appeal for Argentina when the final decision was given as a free-kick on the edge of the area.
However, that was hardly a reprieve for the Ecuadorians because Messi just happens to be one of the best free-kick takers in the world - and the end result did nothing but solidify that fact.
Messi's free-kick stunner
Despite the set-piece looking 'too close' to convert, Messi reminded the world of his unbounded genius by whipping the ball towards the goalkeeper's side and watching it nestle in the top corner.
It really was a definitive demonstration of Messi's diverse and dynamic skillset from free-kicks with his Ecuador worldie moving him closer to the world record with a total of 58 career conversions.
And there couldn't have been a finer demonstration of just how well Messi has perfected his free-kick technique than the way he prepared to fire home his beauty against Ecuador.
Footage has emerged on social media that shows Messi meticulously preparing to take a set-piece that you could easily label as trivial for having been given with the final whistle mere seconds way.
Messi's intense free-kick preparation
The Barcelona skipper can be seen carefully moving the ball from side to side as if to flatten the turf, before sussing out the task ahead of him in a position resembling a sprinter in their blocks.
Marry that to broadcast footage of Messi kneading the ball with his fingers right before stepping back for his run-up and it's clear to see that he didn't leave a single detail to the imagination.
As such, if you fancy getting a fascinating insight into the level of focus required to take a free-kick like Messi then be sure to check out the videos down below:
The concentration. The focus. The attention to detail. You love to see it.
The key to Messi's free-kicks?
Only Messi will know exactly what we going through his mind when he was moving the ball from side to side and checking how firm it felt, but there's no denying that the end result was spot on.
And it gives us good reason to fill in the blanks by musing that the intense attention to detail Messi showed before his Ecuador stunner is exactly what's required to be so lethal from free-kicks.
Then again, when you're churning out free-kick goals at the rate of Messi, you could frankly hula-hoop and samba dance before taking a set-piece and people would start trying to replicate it.