Messi was in the right place at the right time for the second.
Messi was in the right place at the right time for the second. / REUTERS
  • Lionel Messi has done it again; he was the difference between two otherwise very evenly-matched sides in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Liverpool

Occasionally when I was commentating on a Lionel Messi wondergoal I'd be concerned that I'd gone over the top with the hyperbole.

"The best there is, the best there has ever been and the best there will ever be..." was how I verbosely summed up one particularly momentous moment.

Once I turned to Gerry Armstrong, a former team mate and great friend of the legendary George Best to ask: "Is he better now than Best, Pelé, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff?" Thankfully the big Northern Irishman confirmed that the Argentinian had surpassed the standards of the best there had previously been.

Normally Messi breezes through a game, picking and choosing his moments to ignite the occasion with his brilliance. At the end of the semi-final with Liverpool he sunk into the turf of the Camp Nou, exhausted. Liverpool were unfortunate to face the unadulterated, completely committed version of the world's greatest ever footballer.

I saw runners at last weekend's London Marathon who had more left in the tank at the finishing line than Lionel Messi.

Jürgen Klopp commented after the game: "I couldn't be more proud." This seemed odd given the 3-0 scoreline yet it was one of his team's best performances under his leadership. "I was completely happy. It was the best away game in the Champions League so far this season and last season."

The Liverpool players gave their all. Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino both had scoreable chances. Andrew Robertson elevated his game to another level. Mohamed Salah was prominent and at one point almost matched Messi, trick for trick.

The margin was so very fine. One slip in concentration let Luis Suárez score. His celebration suggests he won't be heading back to Merseyside to round off his career...

With fifteen minutes remaining Messi struck. The first was instinct or magnetoreception. The dictionary definition is: "A sense which allows an organism to detect a magnetic field to perceive direction, altitude or location."

There isn't a dictionary definition to describe the second goal. The 42nd freekick of his Barcelona career, his 600th goal was so precise we should be enlisting NASA scientists to study the flight. It wasn't millimetres, it was a nanometre! Klopp wasn't deflecting blame when he described Messi as "unstoppable".

For 83 minutes they had contained him but two goals in a seven-minute spell was the defining difference between two almost perfectly-matched teams.

It's difficult to describe the genius in words so maybe we should use figures. He's now reached the insurmountable 600 goals in his club career, that's an average of 42 goals per season. Some would say 42 goals is a freak occurrence; he is a persistent freak.

Once it was suggested that he couldn't pull it off in the Premier League? Ahem! It's now 26 goals in 33 games against English teams who must be the cream of the country as they play in the Champions League.

The only man who can stop him at Anfield next week is the chap at passport control at John Lennon Airport!