Magician Seems (2004-08)
Evolution Below Pep (2009-11)
Statistical Phenom (2012)
Stocking Trophies (2013-16)
Id Change (2017-)
By the beginning of 2009, Lionel Messi was already firmly established as one of many best footballers on the planet.
New Barcelona supervisor Pep Guardiola had positioned an unlimited quantity of belief in Messi, making him the crew’s largest star on the expense of beforehand peerless Ronaldinho, who was ruthlessly jettisoned to AC Milan amid considerations that his party-hard way of life would negatively impression upon his teammates – particularly the impressionable younger Messi.
As Guardiola’s debut season approached its conclusion, the choice to axe the Brazilian was amply justified as the brand new supervisor’s crew delivered a sequence of sensational performances to mount a significant problem for each La Liga and the Champions League, with Ronaldinho’s alternative Thierry Henry taking part in a pivotal position on the left-hand aspect of an assault additionally that includes Messi on the fitting and Samuel Eto’o by means of the center.
Nonetheless, although, Guardiola was not happy. He believed his crew may get even higher, and to grasp his lofty visions he devised a artistic new technique which, if it labored, would enable Messi to change into much more of a protagonist: the rookie coach would shift Eto’o to the fitting wing, transferring Messi right into a central place as a withdrawn centre ahead, leaving the opposition central defenders with no person to immediately mark and as an alternative tasked with protecting the Argentine in a hardly ever used place often known as a ‘false nine’.
To unleash his experimental masterplan, Guardiola sensibly selected the low-key event of a behind-closed-doors pleasant…wait, no, that’s not fairly proper. The truth is, Messi first appeared within the false 9 position in opposition to no lesser an opposition than Actual Madrid. On the Bernabeu. In a title decider. Daring? This was daring past perception, but it surely yielded spectacular outcomes.
The date was 2 Could 2009, and Barca travelled to the Spanish capital defending a 4 level lead within the title race, with 5 video games remaining. A victory would have given Madrid contemporary hope, however they by no means obtained shut. They by no means had an opportunity. Impressed by Messi, who scored twice, Barca demolished them, destroyed them, obliterated them, profitable 6-2 to depart the soccer world open-mouthed.
After the sport, Madrid centre again Christophe Metzelder admitted that Messi’s new place had left him and defensive associate Fabio Cannavaro fully flummoxed: ought to they maintain their positions and go away Messi unmarked, or observe him into midfield and go away area behind them for Messi – or Henry and Eto’o – to use? They only didn’t know what to do.
Over the subsequent few years, a whole lot of defenders shared Metzelder’s preliminary confusion and eventual ache. Messi ran riot on a weekly foundation, lifting Barca to heights hardly ever reached by any soccer crew, and reaching unprecedented particular person goalscoring feats as a matter of routine.
Virtually each week was a spotlight, however 5 large video games particularly could be seen as encapsulating the glory of Guardiola’s Barca, with Messi on the centre of all the pieces: two of them in opposition to Manchester United, three of them in opposition to Actual Madrid.
The primary, that era-launching 6-2 win on the Bernabeu to successfully clinch the league title, was quickly adopted by extra silverware as Messi and Eto’o scored a aim apiece in a 2-Zero Champions League ultimate victory over Manchester United in Rome.
The next season noticed Barca reclaim La Liga however endure frustration on the European stage, squeezed to demise by Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in a vitriolic semi-final. So when Mourinho returned to the Camp Nou just a few months later in November 2010, this time because the recently-appointed supervisor of Actual Madrid, Messi and his teammates had a degree to show. And boy, how they proved it.
The scoreline – Barcelona 5, Actual Madrid 0 – says sufficient. However what these figures can’t presumably reveal is the chic nature of Barca’s efficiency, as Messi pulled the strings to run Actual ragged. Though he didn’t rating, Messi was on the coronary heart of all the pieces and created two objectives with breathtaking defence-splitting by means of balls for David Villa, and superiority over Mourinho’s Madrid was actually established.
That pecking order was challenged once more just a few months later, when the groups squared off for a Champions League Clasico semi-final. The primary leg on the Bernabeu was a good affair, however Messi despatched his aspect forward with a close-range end within the latter levels. And what occurred subsequent may barely be believed.
Dropping deep to obtain the ball from Sergio Busquets in his false 9 place, near the midway line, Messi had the complete Madrid crew in entrance of him. No drawback. He burst away from Lassana Diarra and Xabi Alonso, eluded Sergio Ramos, breezed previous Raul Albiol, raced into the realm to beat Marcelo and concluded his burst of genius by rolling a diabolically calm end into the far nook previous Iker Casillas. It was one of many best objectives in Champions League historical past, and Messi had conjured it by himself, from the midway line, in opposition to his crew’s largest rivals, in their very own stadium, to condemn a semi-final.
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It appeared there was nothing he couldn’t do, and that impression was strengthened just a few weeks later, when one other masterclass downed Manchester United at Wembley to assert the membership’s second Champions League title in three seasons with a 3-1 victory which desperately flattered the English crew. Messi, after all, scored a superb aim, rifling a low 20-yard strike previous the despairing dive of Edwin van der Sar. However his contribution was excess of objectives, along with his stunning interaction with Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi condemning United to chase shadows and uniting the world in astonished admiration.
That victory at Wembley did excess of safe one other trophy: it additionally outlined an period: this was the period of Pep’s Barca dominating world soccer, with Messi as the point of interest, wreaking havoc from his false 9 place.
Soccer, fairly presumably, has by no means been so good. And soccer, very in all probability, won’t ever be so good once more.