Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lionel Messi is the best player in the UNIVERSE...

Every once in a lifetime, an athlete captures our hearts and imagination by simply playing above and beyond all competition. A man (or woman) that reaches a level where no one else can even come close to competing with them. A player that makes it look so easy that you think he has an extra gear or boost if you will. Lionel 'Pulgita' Messi of Barcelona and Argentina is just that athlete.

Lionel's ever growing legend continued today as the superstar did something that he had never done before, but then again no one in Champion's League history had done before either. Messi scored five goals in a game! It was those five goals that helped defending champion Barcelona easily destroy Germany's Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 to finish off a 10-2 aggregate win and advance to the quarterfinals of the prestigious tournament.

The three-time defending FIFA Player of the Year went on a rampage, scoring in the 25th, 42nd, 49th, 58th and 84th minute to achieve his 17th career hat trick for Barca, and the first 5 goal performance in any game in his futbol career.

"We'll never see a player like him again," proclaimed his coach Pep Guardiola. "He is one of a kind."

Ajax's Soren Lerby was the last to score five goals against Omonia in the Champion Clubs' Cup in 1979-80, but it was a different tournament and a much different game.

"Messi is a joke. For me the best ever," Manchester United and English striker Wayne Rooney declared on Twitter.

The Barcelona striker began his scoring binge after collecting a long ball from Xavi and taking it into the box, making one of his patented lefty chip shots over goalkeeper Bernd Leno from about 12 yards out.

He scored his second goal after receiving a pass from Andres Iniesta on the right side, shifting into that extra gear and knocking in a left-footed shot from 14 yards out through a group of defenders.

Messi's third tally came from a right-footed chip after Cesc Fabregas hit him with a sharp pass after crossing the midfield, taking three quick touches while holding off defender Daniel Schwaab to finish off the play.

Lio then broke another record by becoming the first player to score four goals in a Champion's League game twice. Messi has previously scored four goals against Arsenal two years ago, but this time around he wasn't quite done just yet. The fourth goal came after some 'tiki taka' passing led to the striker racing towards the net and knocking in a rebound off of Leno, tapping it in from an angle with his left foot.

Finally, 'Pulgita' beautifully curled in a shot from the left side, just inside of the post to end the scoring for Barcelona with a seventh goal. Bayer Leverkusen scored a mercy goal in the 90th minute, but it truly didn't matter.

Messi now has 48 goals for Barca this season. 12 of those have been scored in Champion's League, matching Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002-2003 for the all time mark in a season. He now has 49 career Champion's League tallies, tying him for fourth with fellow Argentine (and Real Madrid star) Alfredo Di Stefano in European Cup/Champions League scoring. One more goal, and he matches former Barcelona standout Thierry Henry for third place.

"He's the best. There is no other like him," Guardiola explained. "The numbers speak for themselves. One day he'll score six. We're very fortunate to have Messi, so we have to take advantage of him."

At only 24 years old, 'Pulgita' has 228 goals for Barcelona in his career and is seven away from matching Cesar Rodriguez for the club's career scoring record. Messi already has seven hat tricks this season, a number that will likely continue to grow at the current pace he's going.

Speaking of hat tricks, Messi is averaging 3.3 goals per game in his past four matches for club and country. He has three hat tricks in his past four outings overall, something which in today's era is unheard of.

"I can't remember the last time I scored five goals, so I'm very happy," Messi said. "It's nice to score five goals."

When it comes to Barcelona or the club game, he is well on his way of breaking each and every scoring record. His detractors point out that until he has lifted a World Cup trophy with Argentina, he simply can't beat the likes of Diego Maradona or Pele for the title of best player ever.

"Was it a Champions League match or was it PlayStation game?," Radamel Falcao asked on Twitter.

Players, coaches, and fans alike are starting to wonder if Lionel is from this planet or straight out of a video game. Can anyone else say that about a current athlete from any other sport?! Didn't think so.

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