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Put simply he is the world’s best – and there is little shame in being put to the sword by the world’s best Chelsea
Just ahead of kick-off, the locals unfurled a banner that stretched almost the length of the stand behind Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal.
GOD SAVE THE KING, it read.
At its centre was a picture of a triumphant Lionel Messi . What was unclear was whether he was doing the saving or being saved, god or king.
What was clear after barely 20 minutes is that it was Chelsea who needed saving from Messi’s genius.
It would be easy to look at this result, this game, and use it as further evidence of Chelsea’s decline.
It would be easy to expand on it, to try and find an ever wider significance in the elimination of three of the five English clubs to reach the knockout stages.
But it is better to simply salute a talent the like of which many of us had not seen until he came along.
The lucky so-and-so’s inside this stadium get to see him every other week.
And they have seen far better performances than this one from him. Many of them. That is how good he is.
But this cameo was enough to emphatically dispose of Chelsea, a Chelsea who performed with no little credit, a Chelsea who battled manfully to recover from an early wound that was part Messi-inflicted and part self-inflicted.
It came from a combination of Messi’s alertness and defensive doziness, giving Barcelona the lead before Chelsea leather had barely touched the ball.
Marcos Alonso’s inadvertent diversion allowed Luis Suarez to send Messi away but even genius should not tell from such a tight angle and from relative distance.