When Cristiano Ronaldo scored his five goals against Espanyol Saturday afternoon, all eyes turned to Lionel Messi to see how he would respond.
For years now, the duo have constantly tried to outdo each other in personal and team achievements, yet for the past two years it is the Portuguese who has been triumphant in the race for the Ballon d’Or.
However, this year it appears the favourite for the award could be Messi following him guiding his side to Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey success last season.
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The Argentine superstar had not trained with his teammates for the past two weeks following the international break, as well as the birth of his new born son Mateo.
Luis Enrique did not want to risk playing his star player, especially as they have already have a squad that lacks depth compared to their other La Liga rivals.
Messi's goal more important than Ronaldo's five
Messi was named on the bench to shock many football fans around the world. As the Argentina international sat their surrounded by Barcelona’s third choice goalkeeper and unproven stars, it was only a matter of time before he would be called upon for a moment of magic and inspiration.
Atletico took the lead through former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres who scuffed his effort into the bottom corner. Then Neymar responded with a spectacular free kick just minutes later.
Enrique then turned to his No.10 moments later as he sensed it was the best time to strike. Almost instantly it put Atletico on the back foot and Barcelona on the offensive.
In the 77th minute Luis Suarez flicked the ball through to Messi, which he finished magnificently from a tight angle with a deft touch over the oncoming goalkeeper.
It is moments like that which will prove pivotal when it comes to winning La Liga - not scoring five goals against a side like Espanyol, who were defensively all over the place.
If Messi is to win the Ballon d’Or this year it will be because he turns up when it matters and drives his team to victory when they need a moment of inspiration.
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