Lionel Messi scored twice in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Eibar yesterday, though neither the scoreline nor Messi’s goal tally accurately reflect just how transcendent a show Argentine winger put on. As is so often the case in that inimitable version of Messi domination, it was everything around the scoring that testified to the full extent of his greatness.
The Eibar game serves as a good example of how Messi’s way of controlling and deciding matches is unlike anyone else’s. It’s the passing that really stuck out here, exemplified best by Munir El Haddadi’s opening goal in the match’s 8th minute. Luis Suárez received credit for the assist, but Messi’s perfectly timed and weighted chipped pass over the defense and into Suárez’s path cracked the safe that Suárez then swung open and Munir stepped into. Through the course of the game, Messi had a handful more passes of that ilk, showing off his unreal touch and vision, his ability to at all times see the entire pitch and to get the ball from wherever he is to exactly where it needs to be.
The number of different positions on the field Messi is lethal from is flat-out insane. Traditionally, the last place you want to find Messi is bearing down on your team’s defenders in the center of the pitch. That is how he scored his first goal on the day, but he’s also capable of destroying teams from so many other places. So often you’ll find Messi in his current incarnation parked on the right wing, not in a particularly dangerous position, calmly sizing up the opponent from a standstill, only for him to find one of his ever-moving teammates with a heat-seeker of a through ball. That was the case on Munir’s goal, and on another pass to Arda Turan that should’ve culminated in a goal, and a couple more times where Messi’s genius was left unrequited by his teammates.
In response to his threat as a playmaker, the opponent might respond by sending half the team Messi’s way, the way Eibar did in the 23 minute (about 2:30 into the video above). Even then, he’ll still wriggle free and find room enough to make something happen. It’s said so often about great players, but it’s especially true of Messi: it really does look like he’s playing the game in slow motion, that he never runs out of time or space or ideas in order to beat the defense, because at the granular speeds with which he moves and observes the field he is always able to find a solution.
So, yes, Messi scored twice yesterday against Eibar in a match Barcelona won 4-0, but the mere facts of the match in no way approximate the extent of his brilliance. The only way to appreciate what it is that Messi does that separates him from everyone else is to watch him perform in real time, where you can see how the laws of space and time do not apply to him the same way they do to others.
Photo via Getty