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Lionel Messi's best ever performance? It's not even in the top 5

Lionel Messi's best ever performance? It's not even in the top 5

07/05/2015 at 10:05Updated 07/05/2015 at 10:16

The ludicrous ease with which Lionel Messi decided enough was enough last night, and simply scored two brilliant goals to basically knock out Bayern Munich out of the Champions League, has rightly had football salivating.

The ludicrous ease with which Lionel Messi decided enough was enough last night, and simply scored two brilliant goals to basically knock out Bayern Munich out of the Champions League, has rightly had football salivating.

Was this Messi’s greatest ever performance? The question was asked after his first slammed a shot past Manuel Neuer, then dinked one over him after leaving Jerome Boateng on the floor and finally teed up Neymar for a late, killer third.

It was a sublime display, leading one (admittedly Barca-biased) Spanish newspaper to give Messi a mark of 10 out of 10 for his efforts at Camp Nou.

But so brilliant is Messi’s body of work, there’s an argument to suggest that last night’s devastating performance didn’t even make his personal top five nights in the Champions League.

Here’s five other Messi displays which were arguably even better…

5. Barcelona v Manchester United, Champions League final, 2009

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) heads the ball to score past Manchester United's Edwin van der Sar (unseen) as Rio Ferdinand (5) watches during their Champions League final soccer match at the Olympic Stadium in Rome May 27, 2009.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) heads the ball to score past Manchester United's Edwin van der Sar (unseen) as Rio Ferdinand (5) watches during their Champions League final soccer match at the Olympic Stadium in Rome May 27, 2009.Reuters

It was the final when Sir Alex Ferguson warned of Barcelona that “"They get you on that carousel and they can leave you dizzy … I don't think Iniesta and Xavi have ever given the ball away in their lives." Xavi duly proved him right when being named man of the match thanks to his two assists in a 2-0 win, but it was Messi who finally killed the game off in rather unexpected style. Having found his usual route to goal blocked by the crossbar and Edwin van der Sar, Messi improvised and scored with a glorious, and perfectly-judged, looping header. His lack of aerial prowess had always been cited as a reason why Cristiano Ronaldo was a more rounded player, but in the biggest club game of all he gave his reply.

4. Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen, Champions League last-16, 2012

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) celebrates after scoring his second goal past Bayer Leverkusen's captain Simon Rolfes during their Champions League last 16 second leg soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona March 7, 2012.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) celebrates after scoring his second goal past Bayer Leverkusen's captain Simon Rolfes during their Champions League last 16 second leg soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona March 7, 2012. Reuters

A 7-1 win at Camp Nou gave Barcelona a mammoth 10-2 aggregate win, but the real story of the night was the fact that Messi had become the first ever player to score five goals in a Champions League game, and the first in the European Cup since Soren Lerby put five past Omonia Nikosia for Ajax in 1979. The first was a trademark scoop, the second a trademark jink and drive with his left boot, the third another trademark scoop after a masterful piece of control, the fourth a simple sidefoot from a goalkeeping mistake and the fifth a curling effort just inside the post. Luiz Adriano has since matched the feat for Shakhtar Donetsk against BATE Borisov, in November in fact, but Messi did it first and best.

3. Barcelona v Arsenal, Champions League quarter-final, 2010

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Arsenal during their Champions League quarter-final, second leg soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona April 6, 2010

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Arsenal during their Champions League quarter-final, second leg soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona April 6, 2010Reuters

This was truly the night when Messi extinguished any remaining doubts about his greatness and put tangible distance between himself and Ronaldo, who has never scored as many in a Champions League game. At the age of 22 he surpassed Rivaldo as Barcelona’s top scorer in Champions League history with a performance of quite breathtaking audacity. It was the signature performance in a year which saw him collect his second Ballon d’Or. The other scorer in Barcelona’s 4-1 win? Nicklas Bendtner, of course. "You try to anticipate what he is going to do but he can do whatever he wants and at any moment," Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia said after the game. "How do you stop this kind of player?"

2. Barcelona v Manchester United, Champions League final, 2011

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring as Manchester United's goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and Ryan Giggs react during their Champions League final soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London May 28, 2011

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring as Manchester United's goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and Ryan Giggs react during their Champions League final soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London May 28, 2011Reuters

This Barcelona display was arguably the greatest expression of Guardiola’s philosophy as they returned to the scene of the club’s first European Cup win, Wembley, and produced a performance for the ages to win 3-1. The MVP trident of Messi, David Villa and Pedro all scored on a famous night for the Catalans but it was the devilish figure of Messi who did most of the damage. According to Guardiola: “Lionel Messi is the best player I've ever seen, probably the best ever. He made the difference. Messi is unique, a one-off.”

1. Barcelona v Real Madrid, Champions League semi-final, 2011

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) celebrates after scoring his second goal against Real Madrid during their Champions League semi-final first leg soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, April 27, 2011.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) celebrates after scoring his second goal against Real Madrid during their Champions League semi-final first leg soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, April 27, 2011. Reuters

Messi’s two-goal display against Bayern Munich in a Champions League semi-final first leg last night was brilliant, no question, but this trumped it, and all his other European performances. Context is key, and this game-winning contribution came against Barcelona’s bitterest rivals, in their home stadium, after the kind of intense and nasty battle which came to characterise meetings between Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. Everything was at stake, and after dealing Madrid a huge blow with a goal after 76 minutes to break the deadlock at the Bernabeu, Messi then scored what must, all things considered, be one of the biggest goals in Champions League history as he went on a fantastic run from deep past a host of Madrid shirts to slot the ball past Iker Casillas.