Barcelona's Messi thrives at Celtic Park
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Lionel Messi moved on to nine goals in this season's UEFA Champions League as he took Barcelona through with two at Celtic, and he thrived in the Glasgow atmosphere.
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Barcelona players and coaches have never hidden their admiration for the inspirational effect a cacophonous Celtic Park can have on their performances.
Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Lionel Messi have all gone on the record at one time or another attesting to the extra edge they derive from playing at one of the 'cathedrals’ of European football.
The Clásico apart, it is a fervour they rarely encounter on Spanish soil and last night Messi plugged himself into the Celtic Park power grid before delivering another turbo-charged performance.
Barcelona are by no means a one-man team, but in the wake of their goalless draw against nine-man Málaga at the weekend the Argentinian, who missed that game through illness, demonstrated again the Blaugrana are a much more potent outfit when he is the orchestrator pulling the strings.
Having scored a hat-trick in the 7-0 mauling they handed out to Celtic at the Camp Nou back in September, Messi helped himself to another two in the 2-0 Group C-clinching away win which takes him to 92 Champions League goals; nine in this year's group stage alone, leaving him three behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the race to reach 100.
It is a phenomenal scoring record by both players, but watching Messi at close quarters it was clear he thrived on the passion raining down from the stands in Glasgow's East End.
Give him hell and evidently he will use it as fuel to produce his best form! It was also apparent to this observer at least that Messi was back to his best and enjoying his football, not just because of his goals but his general play, work-rate, desire to influence the game not to mention his vision and creativity. It was a masterclass.
When I asked Gerard Piqué about his team-mate’s quality afterwards he simply said: "We are talking about the best player in the world." On this evidence it is hard to disagree and that's something that should act as a warning to Barcelona's rivals at home and abroad.