Half-fit Messi inspires Barca to victory

Messi Alves Iniesta

Barca’s UCL progression confirms dependance on their no.10

We had agreed that he would go on if we needed him.

Those were the words of Barcelona’s assistant coach, Jordi Roura, speaking after FC Barcelona found themselves in the perilous situation of being a goal down with just 40 minutes left to play of their Champions League quarter-final second-leg clash with PSG.

The ‘he’ Roura was referring to, was of course, Lionel Messi, who came off the bench to inspire Barcelona’s equaliser in the 71st minute; assuring his team both victory on the away-goals rule, and progression to the semi-finals of the Champions League for a record sixth time in a row.

A hamstring injury suffered just a week prior (during the first-leg) meant that Barcelona’s mercurial number 10 was a major doubt for the crucial return fixture, but his presence on the bench confirmed the Catalan giants were ready to gamble on his fitness if their chips were down. “If you risk, there tends to be a reward,” stated sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, after the final whistle.

Some may feel it less of a ‘risk’ to be able to summon a player who is without doubt, the best player on the planet, to aide in a moment of need, and more akin to using a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, and this was echoed by both parties in the immediate aftermath of the match.

“They gained in confidence as soon as he came on,” said the PSG coach, Carlo Ancelotti. “He is the best player in the world, even if he is not fully fit.”

David Villa, who combined with Messi after a typically brilliant dribble, before Pedro applied the finish, stated: “He changes the game just by his presence.”

David Beckham simply added:

A player like him, 100% fit or not, will always make the difference. Messi is the best player in the world, simple as that.

Dani Alves rather bluntly stated the obvious surrounding their Messidependencia:

Messi gives us a different air. We know that and so do the opposition. I prefer a crocked Messi to anyone else fully fit.

When told about Alves’s remark, Roura tried to defuse the obvious with a smile.

“Well, I’d prefer him 100% fit. But it is true that tonight, despite not being fully fit, he made the difference. Obviously when a team doesn’t have the best player in the world, they notice it. He is an extraordinary player and he also has that attitude and ambition which is incredible in a player of his level. You have to take your hat off to him. He is unrepeatable…an irreplaceable player.”

Messi Barcelona

However there was still no getting away from the obvious fact that Barca struggled to impose themselves fully on PSG, without Messi; this despite the fact that Andres Iniesta conjured up yet more Guapa! moments to add to his already bulging YouTube show-reels, and that Xavi completed 100% of his 96 total passes.

Yet no sooner had PSG’s own Argentine playmaker, Javier Pastore, raced clear to give them the upper-hand with time ticking down, Messi was stripped – presumably via a telephone box – and ready to save the day.

Less than 20 minutes later, with the game’s momentum having been completely shifted, Barcelona’s other scorer of big-game decisive goals – Pedro – had put them back in the driving seat. Next stop Munich – final destination: Wembley (again). But as they continue on this journey, there can now be no doubt that Barcelona – and all the teams they meet – definitely suffer from Messidependencia.

“We are talking about the best player in the world,” said Gerard Pique.

It doesn’t matter if he’s a little bit injured: he can change everything and he did it again. Even if he’s half-crippled, he’s always there. He can score, he can pass, he can do anything.

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