The most accurate thing that’s ever been said about Lionel Messi is that he is football’s cheat code.
Such is the man’s grace and humility, he is usually content with being the best player on the pitch while allowing the game to remain identifiable as a contest.
Occasionally though, he slips into top gear and makes a mockery of the sport.
EXHIBIT A: This dribble against Girona from Sunday night
Those defenders had families, Leo.
The sheer panic Messi induces in his opponents is often their undoing.
They know, as well as all of us, that once he sets off on a dribble across the face of the box he’s just waiting to pull the trigger with his left foot.
Each delay renders another another potential blocker impotent, limbs akimbo, until finally there are none left in his way.
On this occasion, the run does not end in a goal as Bono makes a good low save to prevent Messi’s casual finish nestling just inside the far post.
Such moments of magic are a reminder of the Barcelona No10’s freakish talent.
It’s six touches — that’s all.
And yet it throws a new light over the game, the sport.
Liverpool have hired a throw-in coach in pursuit of marginal gains while Messi strolls past players on the edge of their box with incredible ease.
Tactics, formations, systems; suddenly it all seems so futile.
When you’ve got a guy who can do this seemingly at will, what’s the point of anything else?
However, this feeling is fleeting.
Once the crowd have settled down and the ensuing corner is swung in, normal service is resumed.
What can the Girona players do to comfort themselves other than erase those five seconds from their memories?
And in the context of the game, it was ultimately meaningless.
It didn’t lead to a goal and Barcelona dropped points as Cristhian Stuani bagged a brace after Clement Lenglet was sent off for a stray elbow.
Messi had given the hosts the lead and Gerard Pique eventually rescue a point with an excellent header.
But players of Messi’s standing deserve recognition when they remind us of their greatness.
Savour him while he’s still around, they’ll be an emptiness when he’s gone.