When you think of Lionel Messi scoring a goal, what comes to mind? Perhaps you picture the mercurial Argentine weaving his way through an opposing defense before slamming a shot past a helpless goalkeeper. Maybe the six-time Ballon d’Or winner is working on a delicate finish that only a few people are aware of. He could also be curling a perfect free-kick into the top corner.
Messi, on the other hand, has rarely produced rasping, long-range finishes out of nowhere throughout his career. That was, after all, Cristiano Ronaldo’s schtick during the pair’s great La Liga rivalry across the Clasico divide.
But this is a different Messi, though it’s unclear how different he is.
Is he still enraged over Josep Maria Bartomeu’s errors during his presidency, which, while ending in October, did not hit its nadir until February’s thrashing by Paris Saint-Germain?
Lashing the ball in with the ferocity he’s displayed over the last week suggests he still has some pent-up feelings that need to be let out.
Is this a Messi who is letting it all hang out because he knows he just has a few weeks before he has to say goodbye to the club that helped him become the player he is?
Or is this a relieved, resurgent Messi, one who, after the hardest year of his career, feels free to express himself in all-new ways, knowing he’ll have to be the lynchpin at the heart of Barca’s comeback?
What is driving the 33-year-old at the moment is only he knows, but whatever it is, it is taking the best out of Barcelona’s talisman and putting them in a place where a lost season might suddenly become unforgettable.
Although Messi’s flash of brilliance in the return leg against PSG was not enough to inspire a spectacular Champions League revival, it was the highlight of a night in which Barcelona demonstrated they are not as far behind Europe’s elite as previous results would imply.
Messi marked his 767th appearance for the club with a spectacular long-range shot, his curling attempt seemingly coming out of nowhere and crashing in off the underside of the crossbar.