Messi, Messi and, once again, Messi
The Argentinian star shined above everyone in the start of Europe’s Champions League.
Another season of the great Champions League kicked off last week. As usual, the debate about the top candidates was the talk of town in cities like Barcelona.
“Real Madrid can’t win this thing for a fourth time in a row,” Jordi, the barman, told me while he was preparing the coffee I need to get going every morning.
“You have no idea,” shouted a young and nervous man from the back of the place. “Without the Portuguese (Cristiano Ronaldo), Real plays much better and the kid from Mallorca (Marco Asensio) will soon be the world’s top star”.
“There is not a bigger star than Messi,” said a convinced older man who was sitting next to the young Real Madrid fan.
Well, there is nothing like top European soccer to lessen the bad mood that has been installed in the convulsive city of Barcelona this month. Demonstrations have started often on the streets again, with some people even camping at Plaça Sant Jaume (Saint James Square), a place that has City Hall on one side and the Catalan Government headquarters on the other.
Anyway, on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Camp Nou things were the same as in past years. Coming to watch Barça at their stadium is like watching “Groundhog Day.” We are trapped in time and are used to seeing Leo Messi’s spectacular soccer performances every year.
Dutch champion, a hard-nosed PSV Eindhoven, was coming to Barcelona led by Mexican winger Hirving Lozano, who took down Germany in Russia’s World Cup this past summer. But Messi shined again — once, twice, even three times. The Argentinian striker recorded his eighth hat-trick in the Champions League, establishing a tournament mark by surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese footballer had a very sad European debut with new club Juventus from Italy. (He was ejected in the first half of Juventus’ win at Valencia.)
Barça did not have an easy outing against a tough PSV that kept it close, 1-0, until there were only 16 minutes left to play. The only goal had come on a marvelous free kick executed by Messi in the first half. But the home team just took off in the last quarter of the contest. Young French forward Ousmane Dembélé, who looks more and more comfortable in his role every game, delivered the second goal while Messi accounted for the third and fourth scores.
The win brought confidence back to Barcelona fans that sadly saw their team eliminated from Europe’s main competition, losing in Rome in last season’s quarterfinal round.
The Champions League kickoff is always received with joy in the city as the competition truly marks the start of the season. Barça is looking forward again to the challenge of taking from its top opponent, Real Madrid, a trophy the club from the Spanish capital has won in the last three years.
Hope is a key incentive for Barcelona fans that have as their main reference Leo Messi, a player whose efficiency seems endless.