LONDON — At the home of world soccer the greatest individual player the world has ever seen put in a display worthy of winning any game.
Lionel Messi made Wembley Stadium, and Tottenham Hotspur, gasp and gawk in awe as he scored twice, hit the post twice, was involved heavily in the other two goals and led Barcelona to a thrilling 4-2 win in the UEFA Champions League.
Every single person inside Wembley felt lucky to be there to witness his brilliance up close and in the flesh. It sounds boring to repeat this because we’ve said this so many times about Messi over the past 15 years.
At many moments many Tottenham fans stood up and applauded his play. That tells you all you need to know.
“He‘s a fantastic player. The most important thing is why Lionel Messi in every game shows why he is Messi. His average performance is this type of game, above everything else,” Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said as he tried to claim Messi wasn’t that dangerous in the first 45 minutes. That wasn’t the case.
The truth is that we are witnessing greatness and those at Wembley on Wednesday will tell their children and grandchildren about seeing him in full flow, ripping defenders apart and doing everything with both sublime ease and supreme skill.
In truth, the 4-2 scoreline flattered Tottenham slightly. Messi and Co. were guilty of toying with Spurs a little too much before they finished them off in the closing stages.
At the age of 31 Messi’s brilliance shows no signs of slowing down as he scored goals number 561 and 562 in his 647th appearance for Barcelona.
“He [Messi] was unbelievable. When he’s in that form he’s magic to watch,” Spurs defender Kieran Trippier added.
And Spurs’ entire team spent most of Wednesday watching the magician glide across the Wembley pitch past them.
Not even a dried out patch of dodgy grass around the center circle stopped him from finding spaces then ruthlessly exposing Tottenham’s makeshift midfield and defense as Pochettino had to deal with missing several of his regulars.
Had Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen been fit, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference with Messi in this form. Not only did he dazzle in attack but he chased back, dropped deep to start attacks and his understanding with Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho in particular made every player around him better.
Every superlative in the English language used one after another would not be capable of describing just how brilliant he is and what we witness on a weekly basis.
We aren’t sure if Messi will ever get to play at Wembley again. Given the fact that England don’t have any friendly games lined up against Argentina and Tottenham aren’t due to play any more UEFA Champions League games there after December, it seems likely he won’t be back at the iconic venue.
If that was to be Messi’s final game at the spiritual home of soccer, it was a fitting tribute to the true beauty of the beautiful game.
The truth is that magic like Messi’s is never likely to be seen again.