Together, they won 14 trophies in four years, were the perfect partners as they shredded defences and left the best of teams in rags and helped one another create history.
However, on Wednesday night, in front of a bursting Camp Nou, it was the student who outdid his master. Much had been said about Pep Guardiola, his return to Barcelona, a club he made one of the best for years.
Since he left the club in 2012, he had taken a sabbatical, a much-needed rest to savour all the honours he won and also to distract his body and mind from the pressures of the game. When he returned to management, he took over Bayern Munich, a giant club in Europe who were trading blows with Barcelona at the European stage and had delivered a knockout the last time they faced off.
Lionel Messi was part of a side put to shame when Bayern Munich won 4-0 at home and 3-0 at Camp Nou in one of the greatest massacres Barcelona had suffered in Europe in 2013. They were destroyed, hammered into submission as the Bavarians marched on to the final which they won.
But on Wednesday night, the ‘Little Magician’ returned with vengeance. He felt challenged. Challenged to win, challenged to get one over his former boss, challenged to cement his legacy as the world’s best.
With 76 minute on the clock, Messi and his attacking co-workers, Luis Suarez and Neymar – MSN so they call them these days – had threaded punches towards Manuel Neuer goal but like Manny Pacquaio on Floyd Mayweather, they were body shots, not telling enough.
However, a minute later, the man who, at an early age, was diagnosed with a growth hormone disorder outgrew his peers. Dani Alves must have, in his mind, scripted a neat one-two exchange with Messi when he fed him from the right. However, the Argentine had a different thought.
He always thinks differently.
Already disadvantaged by the distance between him and the goal (25 yards), faced with two classy defenders and the world’s best goalkeeper, Messi was fearless. Like he often does, he picked his spot, unleashed a trademark right foot drive and scored a trademark Lionel Messi goal.
1-0 to Barcelona.
If his first goal in the 77th minute was a stunner – beating Manuel Neuer at his near post is a dream of impossible proportions – his second was gob smacking, legendary, magnificent, top-drawer.
After collecting Ivan Rakitic’s ball, Messi mocked Jerome Boateng – a FIFA World Cup winning defender – leaving him hitting a ‘groundie’ on the floor. That was a job half done. With Neuer still looking big like incredible Hulk in goal, the Argentine still hard some work to do. A quick flip of the ball from his left to right boot and an ‘oh my God’ chip of the ball over Neuer and into the back of the net completed the job.
It was a finish that worthy of a player his class, one that had the Camp Nou crowd with their hands buried in their hands, that unbelievable. If his two goals were the dressing of the cake, his assist for Neymar’s third for Barcelona was the icing.
3-0 and a mountain to climb for Guardiola’s men in the return leg at the Allianz next week.
On his pre-match presser, Guardiola displayed some level of fear. He had gladly proclaimed ‘No one can stop Messi.’
He was right. And he knew it all along.
And That’s thesteifmastertake!!