Chelsea among the last obstacles in the way of Messi's greatness

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2007 wasn’t exactly a vintage year for football. David Beckham secured his move to LA Galaxy from Real Madrid which left literally tens of people on the edge of their seat, while AC Milan discovered that revenge was a dish best served two years cold as they pipped Liverpool to Champions League glory.


There was one bright, extraordinary spot in that otherwise forgettable 12 month period, and it happened exactly five years ago to the day.


It was the 19th goal Lionel Messi had scored for Barcelona. Since then, the Argentinian wonder has added a further 222 goals that now make him the Cataln club’s greatest scorer bar none - Not a bad achievement for one aged just 24 – but none of his goals before or after could live up to his effort on the night


As he glided through the Getafe defence, Samuel Eto’o screamed at him to pass the ball. In the background, Andres Iniesta watched on as the man destined to become the greatest in the world scored one of the finest goals in living memory. It was a goal good enough to forgive him his questionable haircut.


After the game, journalist scratched their heads as to how to describe what they had just witnessed. One asked ‘What planet did you come from?’ repeating the question famously put to Maradona in 1986.


The goal was a thing of pure footballing beauty, as artful as anything produced on a football pitch and mirroring almost perfectly Maradona’s iconic strike against England in the World Cup back in 1986. This was the birth, according to the papers, of ‘Messidona.’


Messi covered 60 metres in scoring his goal, Maradona 62. Both touched the ball 13 times and beat six men. Deco declared it the best he had ever seen in his life, while Barcelona’s former sporting director Txiki Begiristain ran the risk of upsetting ‘El Diego’


“I hope Maradona can forgive me, but I think Messi's goal is even better," he said. Messi dedicated his goal to Maradona, who was in hospital at the time suffering the consequences of his battle with alcoholism.


Five years on Messi stands alone, peerless with records littered along the path he has taken, all the while maintaining the boyish enthusiasm and delight which spread across his face after scoring that night in the Spanish Cup semi-final aged just 19.


A record season of goalscoring in the Champions League? Check. Three successive Ballon D’or trophies? check. The youngest top scorer in the Champions League? Most goals in a single European season? Well, not quite, but that should change soon with just four goals between him and Gerd Muller, the soon-to-be dislodged current holder of that particular record.


However tonight he comes up against an anomaly in his immaculate career to date that some hold against him. Some maintain that Messi has been unable to replicate his high standards against English clubs.


Six games between Barcelona and Chelsea have passed without getting on the scoresheet – while eight times Messi has played against Premier League sides in England (excluding the final against Manchester United), and eight times he has failed to score while on non-neutral territory.


Of course that argument holds little weight when he has destroyed Premier League sides elsewhere; Manchester United have felt his wrath in two Champions League finals (one of which was at Wembley) while the four goals he bagged against Arsenal in 2010 will live long in the memory.


The argument persists that because he is protected a great deal more in La Liga than when he comes up against the more robust Premier League side that he is knocked off his stride.


Chelsea stand in between Barcelona once more as they try to become the first team to successfully win back to back Champions League tournaments.


The Blues have garnered a reputation for being one of the more physically robust sides in Europe, led by the incomparable Didier Drogba, perhaps hinting at why Messi has never quite achieved his best against the Blues.


In fact Barca in general have struggled against Chelsea, winning just three of their last ten games since 2000, each with the help of playing against ten men, adding credence to the claim that they have been able to jam the cogs of the Barcelona machine.


However they come up against a Messi in the form of his life; he now has 23 goals to his name in his last 13 games in all competitions.


The argument that he cannot thrive against English clubs may be flimsy, but he has a point to prove against Chelsea, and it is an issue that he can address at Stamford Bridge tonight and prove those scrabbling for a reason to resist his greatness wrong.


In the five years since Messi announced himself on the world stage with his spell-binding goal, there has been little that has resisted his guile and finesse. A night beckons to put one of the minor niggles of his career to bed.


If he could do it with a strike similar to that which graced the game against Getafe, then it really would put to be the greatest myth of Messi’s career.

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