Mauricio Pochettino certainly called it when, the day before his side met Barcelona at Wembley, the Tottenham manager admitted he could not find a solution for dealing with Lionel Messi and that he just told his players to relish the experience of facing against arguably football’s greatest-ever player.
“I am not going to try to find a solution,” Pochettino said on Tuesday. “I am going to say to the players: ‘Enjoy playing against Messi.’ This is the type of player that you are going to remember. For your ego, it’s a thing that you are going to tell your kids and grandkids.”
Pochettino’s players will not forget the Barcelona captain in a hurry and neither will the 82,137 fans who saw the 31-year-old deliver a masterclass performance, in which he scored twice and orchestrated so much more to inspire Barcelona’s 4-2 victory over Spurs in Group B of the Champions League.
Messi is on a hot streak in the competition: He hit a hat trick in a 4-0 win against PSV Eindhoven on Matchday 1 and, but for the width of a goal post on two occasions in this game, he would have walked off the pitch with four in London.
Nobody disputes the genius he showed for the first time more than a decade ago and has demonstrated consistently since but, after so long at the top and having played more than 800 games, we have to accept that nights like these, when he illuminated Wembley, might be less frequent.
The double strike against Spurs took his all-time Champions League goal tally to 108 — just 13 behind Cristiano Ronaldo — and he has now scored a remarkable 22 goals in 29 appearances against English clubs.
But even if the bulk of his achievements are already written in the history books, he still possesses the magical ability to appear superhuman on a football pitch.
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