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Lionel Messi shows darker side to underline Barcelona’s Champions League desire

Barca's yearning to win the greatest prize in football was evident at the Camp Nou

Keep the guy quiet for 75 minutes and he’ll still reduce you to nothing.

With one fell swoop of his left boot, Lionel Messi likely incinerated Liverpool’s Champions League hopes and put one Barcelona foot in the final.

We are so normalised to his brilliance now that we almost expected him to score that spellbinding free kick. It was special, but by his standards it was routine.


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Magical Messi

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Magical Messi

But we also witnessed a different side to Messi last night.

Barcelona haven’t tasted Champions League glory since 2015, watching on as arch rivals Real Madrid dominated the competition.

In that time Barca have reigned supreme domestically, collecting three out of four La Liga titles – including this season – and potentially a fifth Copa del Rey crown by the end of the month.

But something is missing.

Domination

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Domination

In pre-season Messi addressed the Barca faithful, saying: “Last season was really good as we did the double but we all felt bad about how it went in the Champions League.

“We promise that this season we will do all we can to bring that beautiful trophy back to the Camp Nou.”

‘We will do all we can.’ Those words rang true last night, with Barca’s win at all costs mentality coming to the fore.

Addressing his adoring fans

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Addressing his adoring fans

Like Eden Hazard, Messi usually brushes himself off and moves on after being cynically booted up in the air for the 78th time in 90 minutes.

But last night was different.

Perhaps inspired by Luis Suarez’s relentless antics, Messi animatedly rolled over once, then twice, then three, then four times after James Milner’s body check in the first half.

Maybe Milner was seeking revenge from that humiliating nutmeg four years ago, but Messi deliberately overreacted before waving an imaginary card at referee Bjorn Kuipers.

The great man then showcased his unrivalled spatial awareness to locate the nearest television camera and direct a cheeky smile. You almost expected him to wink.

In the second half there was more of the same.

After Fabinho stood in his way, Messi subtly threw an arm at the Brazilian’s face in frustration.

The incident went unnoticed by the match officials, but the damage to Liverpool was complete just moments later as Messi effortlessly curled in the resulting free kick.

After THAT free kick

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After THAT free kick

The 31-year-old wheeled away as Barca fans saluted their Messiah again.

This was Messi 2.0; his unstoppable best sprinkled with a dash of s***housery too.

These are the extremes he is willing to go for the Champions League.

Leaving defenders in his wake

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Leaving defenders in his wake

Sergio Ramos did it time and time again during Real’s era of ascendancy to reiterate his serial winner attitude.

Messi has nothing to prove, but he has recognised to reach the ultimate glory you may need a drop of bastardry along the way.