The display which Lionel Messi gave while propelling FC Barcelona to an awe-inspiring 5-1 win against Panathinaikos FC should have been enough to let him join his team-mates and opponents in recognising a night of sheer brilliance.
However one of the great blessings that Messi enjoys is that his talent is mixed with a relentless hunger to improve while he keeps winning. That meant that although the 2009 UEFA Champions League winners now sit very comfortably on top of Group D with three points and a healthy goal difference, Messi left the Camp Nou just a little bit irked with himself.
Despite two fine goals and two assists for Pedro Rodríguez and Daniel Alves, the Argentina forward rued not getting a hat-trick. He knew he might have scored instead of crashing a first-half shot off the bar and that, quite certainly, Messi will not take many more penalties as weakly as the one which Alexandros Tzorvas had no trouble saving just after half-time.
"I am a bit angry at myself for missing that penalty but the important thing was that the team won a big match," Messi told UEFA.com. "We played excellently, we continually created chances, throughout the game, and to be truthful I know that I could have scored a couple more in total."
It will be important to Pep Guardiola and his team, as they pursue a third UEFA Champions League victory in five years – back at Wembley Stadium where they won their first European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1992 – that the display included resilience. Sidney Govou actually put Panathinaikos ahead, after a lovely assist from Djibril Cissé, but Messi, David Villa, Pedro and Alves then cut loose.
"We got over going 1-0 down really quickly and from the moment that it was 1-1 I really think that we played almost perfect football," said Messi, who was so content with the quality of play that he was willing to select a favourite goal. "The best was just before half time when I played wall-passes with Xavi [Hernández] and then Pedro – it turned into a beautiful piece of play."
The consolation for Nikos Nioplias and his men was that Panathinaikos were no lambs to the slaughter. It took a superb Barcelona night to defeat them and Jean-Alain Boumsong, one of their more experienced campaigners believes all is far from lost.
"We knew before kick-off that this would be tough and so it proved," he said. "Perhaps the first place in this group belongs to Barça but if we keep our heads up and keep working then we have the potential to finish second. That must be our aim, despite losing 5-1. Rubin Kazan losing to FC København might be a good result for us ... but only if we then do what we have to do and beat the Danes. I know that we can get through to the knockout stage, I'm sure of it."
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.