For all the feats of Lionel Messi’s career, he had never score five goals in a professional match.
Five goals had never been scored by one player in a single Champions League game either. That is until the 2011-’12 Last 16 second leg tie between Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen at Camp Nou.
With yet another five-star performance; Messi score five goals to help Barcelona to a 7-1 win on the night and a 10-2 aggregate rout. This was also the first time any side had reached double figures for a Champions League knock-out tie.
“Without Messi, Barcelona are the best team. With him, they are on another galaxy,” said Leverkusen Head Coach Robin Dutt.
“We will never see a player like him again. He is one of a kind,” said Barcelona boss ‘Pep’ Guardiola of the three-time FIFA World Footballer of the Year.
The last time a player scored five goals in European soccer’s top club competition had been when Ajax’s Soren Lerby did it against Omonia in the old Champion Clubs’ Cup in 1979-80.
At just 24 years old, Messi has 228 goals for Barcelona and is seven short of equalling Cesar Rodriguez for the club’s all-time scoring record. Messi has seven scored hat-tricks this season. Many are calling him the “greatest of all time” which this observer feels is unfair to greats of former eras. Such have been the advances in ball/boot/pitch technology and the fact that top flight football now isn’t far off a non-contact sport, means that, for my money, Messi can’t compare with the names of Pelé, Maradonna or Cruyfff. Yet. He could be one great World Cup winning performance away from being mentioned alongside those names however.