Lionel Messi will win Barcelona the Champions League

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Lionel Messi has written his name all over the Champions League for the last few years.

Cristiano Ronaldo's monumental 17 goals last season deserves appropriate recognition but for years now the diminutive Argentine has been at the top of the tree as far as European football is concerned.

Against the very best, Messi has proved time and again that he is the master.

He sits alongside Ronaldo on 67 goals, just four behind the all-time record goalscorer Raul, whose 71 came via spells at Real Madrid and Schalke.

Ronaldo too has divided up his share between Los Blancos and Manchester United.

UCL record-breaker

One of Messi's numerous records in the competition is that all of his 67 strikes have come for one club, his beloved Barcelona.

The only player to score five in a Champions League match, vs. Bayer Leverkusen in 2012.

The only player to top score in the competition in four consecutive seasons (2008 to 2012) and the player with most hat-tricks in the tournament.

The player with the most assists overall, and most goals scored in the group stages of the competition.

Messi's record is beyond compare. Ronaldo is only mentioned in the same breath at this juncture because of the ferocious scoring rate of the last campaign. One which ultimately led to Real Madrid's successful pursuit of "La Decima."

The way in which Messi has started the season for the Catalans should already have the rest of Europe sitting up and taking notice.

Two goals and two assists, not to mention passing and movement par excellence, has seen Barcelona roar to the top of the La Liga table with a perfect record of three wins from three and no goals conceded.

Sharp and dangerous

Ominously Messi looks sharp, dangerous and most importantly, happy.

How many times did we note last season a player who seemed disinterested in proceedings and not bothered?

His insouciance was never better evidenced than in the Champions League games against Atletico Madrid, a two-legged tie deservedly won by the Rojiblancos.

Tom Conn of Inside Spanish Football explained that, given the importance of the match, how Messi only ran slightly further than Barcelona's goalkeeper that day, Jose Manuel Pinto.

Yet there's no doubt that there is already a change in the Argentine captain's demeanour this season.

Defensive quality

Luis Enrique spoke to reporters after the game against Athletic Bilbao and noted Messi's qualities, via "Messi isn’t only the best for his goals but for his assists.

If he wanted to be the best defender around he would be. He does things that people couldn't do on a Playstation video game console."

With a weight seemingly lifted from his shoulders, Messi is once again playing with the freedom and abandon for which he is known.

APOEL Nicosia could be his first unwilling victims, and Paris Saint Germain know all about his effect after a 30-minute cameo in 2012 took the Blaugrana through when on the verge of exiting the competition.

Ajax too, downed by a hat-trick in the first game of the tournament last season, won't relish their return appointment.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

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Lionel Messi
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