The Barcelona and Argentina star hit more than a goal a game in the past decade and also provided more assists than other players in the big European leagues.
At the time of writing, Lionel Messi is second on the list of players to have made the most appearances in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League, just two behind Cristiano Ronaldo. That said, despite having played fewer matches at this stage of the tournament, the Argentine has scored more goals during this round of fixtures than any other player in the competition’s history with 26.
Messi seems to thrive in last-16 matches on the European stage, and, because of that, we’re going to look at three of his best displays.
Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal, Nou Camp, 2010-2011:
On March 8th, 2011, Barcelona welcomed Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal to the Nou Camp, having lost the reverse fixture in London 2-1. During the contest at the Emirates, David Villa opened the scoring before two late goals from the Gunners, scored by Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin, ensured that they took a precious lead to Spain.
However, unfortunately for Arsenal, they found Barcelona and Messi in fine form as they were able to overturn the first-leg deficit. Minutes before Van Persie was shown one of the competition’s most controversial red cards, Sergio Busquets turned the ball into the back of his own net to draw the London-based side level after Messi broke the deadlock shortly after the start of the second half.
Having seen their opponents go down to ten men, the Catalan giants were able to stamp their authority on the contest with Xavi adding a second for Barca on 79 minutes. With the scores level on aggregate, Messi stepped up and found the bottom left corner from the penalty spot to secure the Spanish club’s place in the Quarter Finals. Although this wasn’t, from a goalscoring standpoint, one of the Argentine’s most clinical performances, it was, in hindsight, of great significance as Barcelona went on to win the competition.
Barcelona 5-1 Olympique Lyon, Nou Camp, 2018-19:
After each side failed to make the breakthrough in the first leg at the Groupama Stadium, the pressure was on when Lyon visited the Nou Camp for the decisive return leg, and they faced an impossible task with Messi once again at the top of his game.
The Argentine started from the right but found himself drifting inside into a more central role to exploit the gaps between the visitors’ defense and midfield. Unsurprisingly, he did this to devastating effect. After Luis Suarez was fouled inside the area on 18 minutes, Messi made no mistake from the spot as he slotted Barca into a one-goal lead.
However, it was in the second half where Messi truly demonstrated his world-class talent. With Lyon having pulled it back to 2-1, there was everything to play for in the closing stages of the highly-competitive match. That said, in the space of eight minutes, the now 32-year-old secured his second of the tie before setting up both Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele as the Spanish giants ran out 5-1 winners.
Despite Messi’s form, Barcelona was unable to claim the Champions League during that campaign, but are currently 7/1 with William Hill, who is one of the trusted operators at BonusFinder UK, as of March 10th, to win the competition for a sixth time this season.
Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen, Nou Camp, 2011-2012:
Along with having the record for the most goals of any player in Round of 16 matches in the Champions League, the Barcelona captain also boasts the record for the most goals in a single match at this stage of the tournament.
Although the 2010-11 champions would ultimately fail to defend their title, Messi’s display against Bayer Leverkusen is arguably one of the best in the competition’s history.
The Argentine had already scored one in the first leg as Pep Guardiola’s team returned to Spain with a 3-1 lead, and, within 50 minutes of the reverse fixture, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner had scored a hat-trick after being set up by Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Cesc Fabregas respectively. Messi wasn’t finished there, however, as he then went on to score his 11th and 12th goals in the 2011-12 Champions League campaign in the final 33 minutes of the match.
The Man for the Big Occasions:
Throughout his club career, Messi has shown time and time again that he is more than capable of singlehandedly dragging Barcelona into the latter stages of European competition. Whether he’s finding the net himself or setting up his teammates, the Argentine attacker is, statically, the best goalscorer that the last-16 of the Champions League has ever seen.