Classic Final Goals

Peak Messi

The smallest player on the pitch climbed highest to head in the goal that sealed Barcelona’s 2009 triumph, proof that Lionel Messi really was capable of anything

WORDS Chris Burke | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

Racing away to celebrate, Lionel Messi kissed the boot he was brandishing in his right hand. Then he brought it to his lips and embraced it again. And what could have been more natural…arguably the best player in the world, a miracle-worker with those very same boots, celebrating another goal with the foremost tool of his trade. After all, how many times has that famous footwear caressed a ball into a net? Hundreds. Almost too many to count.

But not this time.

Ask Messi to pick a favourite from his hefty catalogue of goals and he will cite this one, spirited beyond Edwin van der Sar in the 2009 Champions League final. You might expect him to choose the Messiest of all Messi goals. Apex Messi. As Messi as it gets. A trail of defenders left on their backsides, or a free-kick squeezed in off the crossbar via the logic of Cubism. This, however, was a very different creature, almost the antimatter of Messi. Or, to put it another way, a header.

“My favourite goals are more than just attractive; they are important,” the Barcelona icon later explained, recalling that crowning moment at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. “It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me too.”

Still only 21 and cleanly shaven, Messi certainly had a lengthy to-do list as he lined up against Manchester United. There was the fact he had missed the 2006 decider through injury – plus a treble mission to complete, with Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka troubadours vying to become the first Spanish side to win the Liga, Copa del Rey and European Cup.

There were other battles too, such as Messi’s nascent duel with United star Cristiano Ronaldo, a young man laser-focused on greatness. And this was also that long-ago era, somewhere between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, when it supposedly meant something that Messi had never scored against a Premier League team. The cave drawings mention wet Tuesdays in Stoke, but beyond that little has been preserved.

Racing away to celebrate, Lionel Messi kissed the boot he was brandishing in his right hand. Then he brought it to his lips and embraced it again. And what could have been more natural…arguably the best player in the world, a miracle-worker with those very same boots, celebrating another goal with the foremost tool of his trade. After all, how many times has that famous footwear caressed a ball into a net? Hundreds. Almost too many to count.

But not this time.

Ask Messi to pick a favourite from his hefty catalogue of goals and he will cite this one, spirited beyond Edwin van der Sar in the 2009 Champions League final. You might expect him to choose the Messiest of all Messi goals. Apex Messi. As Messi as it gets. A trail of defenders left on their backsides, or a free-kick squeezed in off the crossbar via the logic of Cubism. This, however, was a very different creature, almost the antimatter of Messi. Or, to put it another way, a header.

“My favourite goals are more than just attractive; they are important,” the Barcelona icon later explained, recalling that crowning moment at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. “It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me too.”

Still only 21 and cleanly shaven, Messi certainly had a lengthy to-do list as he lined up against Manchester United. There was the fact he had missed the 2006 decider through injury – plus a treble mission to complete, with Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka troubadours vying to become the first Spanish side to win the Liga, Copa del Rey and European Cup.

There were other battles too, such as Messi’s nascent duel with United star Cristiano Ronaldo, a young man laser-focused on greatness. And this was also that long-ago era, somewhere between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, when it supposedly meant something that Messi had never scored against a Premier League team. The cave drawings mention wet Tuesdays in Stoke, but beyond that little has been preserved.

Read the full story
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Those began to look like frivolous concerns when Samuel Eto’o fired Barcelona in front after just ten minutes. Messi had been involved in the build-up, but he was yet to leave his personal mark on the match. Instead, it was Barça’s slick passing and collective power that radiated at the end of Guardiola’s first season in charge. As Irish TV commentator George Hamilton enthused: “It’s not poetry in motion: it’s geometry in motion.”

United, the holders, could only scratch their heads – as they would again at Wembley two years later. Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who had seen it all, could offer no solution. And his team’s demise took even firmer shape with 20 minutes to go, which is when Messi re-enters the picture.

As a Barcelona attack fizzles out, Patrice Evra makes the mistake of aiming a clearance at Xavi Hernández, who strides down the right and gauges the angles. Ronaldo, meanwhile, is slow in tracking back. The result is a cross, looped perfectly into the area beyond Rio Ferdinand, where Messi misjudges the flight. He’s overrun it, surely.

Yes, but then this happens. Leaning away as he hangs majestically in the air, the Barça No10 finds the right contortion to head back across Van der Sar, whose jaw drops as the ball sails above. And by the time it finds the far corner, Messi has crumpled to the earth, his boot popping off to be held as a temporary trophy on a jubilant run to the corner flag. Then come the team-mates, led by Thierry Henry, astonished by the little man’s giant leap.

Messi, among the shortest players on pitch. Whose first 700 goals for club and country included just 24 headers. This was a rare beast indeed. And yet it was a goal so unMessi-like that it arguably looms above the rest as peak Messi. Proof that the man who can do everything can actually do everything. A Premier League finish to break his duck against English clubs. And delivered with the foremost tool of his trade – the real one, not those boots after all but his all-seeing, all-calculating and goalscoring cranium.

Racing away to celebrate, Lionel Messi kissed the boot he was brandishing in his right hand. Then he brought it to his lips and embraced it again. And what could have been more natural…arguably the best player in the world, a miracle-worker with those very same boots, celebrating another goal with the foremost tool of his trade. After all, how many times has that famous footwear caressed a ball into a net? Hundreds. Almost too many to count.

But not this time.

Ask Messi to pick a favourite from his hefty catalogue of goals and he will cite this one, spirited beyond Edwin van der Sar in the 2009 Champions League final. You might expect him to choose the Messiest of all Messi goals. Apex Messi. As Messi as it gets. A trail of defenders left on their backsides, or a free-kick squeezed in off the crossbar via the logic of Cubism. This, however, was a very different creature, almost the antimatter of Messi. Or, to put it another way, a header.

“My favourite goals are more than just attractive; they are important,” the Barcelona icon later explained, recalling that crowning moment at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. “It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me too.”

Still only 21 and cleanly shaven, Messi certainly had a lengthy to-do list as he lined up against Manchester United. There was the fact he had missed the 2006 decider through injury – plus a treble mission to complete, with Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka troubadours vying to become the first Spanish side to win the Liga, Copa del Rey and European Cup.

There were other battles too, such as Messi’s nascent duel with United star Cristiano Ronaldo, a young man laser-focused on greatness. And this was also that long-ago era, somewhere between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, when it supposedly meant something that Messi had never scored against a Premier League team. The cave drawings mention wet Tuesdays in Stoke, but beyond that little has been preserved.

Peak Messi
Classic Final Goals

Peak Messi

The smallest player on the pitch climbed highest to head in the goal that sealed Barcelona’s 2009 triumph, proof that Lionel Messi really was capable of anything

WORDS Chris Burke | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

Racing away to celebrate, Lionel Messi kissed the boot he was brandishing in his right hand. Then he brought it to his lips and embraced it again. And what could have been more natural…arguably the best player in the world, a miracle-worker with those very same boots, celebrating another goal with the foremost tool of his trade. After all, how many times has that famous footwear caressed a ball into a net? Hundreds. Almost too many to count.

But not this time.

Ask Messi to pick a favourite from his hefty catalogue of goals and he will cite this one, spirited beyond Edwin van der Sar in the 2009 Champions League final. You might expect him to choose the Messiest of all Messi goals. Apex Messi. As Messi as it gets. A trail of defenders left on their backsides, or a free-kick squeezed in off the crossbar via the logic of Cubism. This, however, was a very different creature, almost the antimatter of Messi. Or, to put it another way, a header.

“My favourite goals are more than just attractive; they are important,” the Barcelona icon later explained, recalling that crowning moment at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. “It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me too.”

Still only 21 and cleanly shaven, Messi certainly had a lengthy to-do list as he lined up against Manchester United. There was the fact he had missed the 2006 decider through injury – plus a treble mission to complete, with Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka troubadours vying to become the first Spanish side to win the Liga, Copa del Rey and European Cup.

There were other battles too, such as Messi’s nascent duel with United star Cristiano Ronaldo, a young man laser-focused on greatness. And this was also that long-ago era, somewhere between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, when it supposedly meant something that Messi had never scored against a Premier League team. The cave drawings mention wet Tuesdays in Stoke, but beyond that little has been preserved.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Racing away to celebrate, Lionel Messi kissed the boot he was brandishing in his right hand. Then he brought it to his lips and embraced it again. And what could have been more natural…arguably the best player in the world, a miracle-worker with those very same boots, celebrating another goal with the foremost tool of his trade. After all, how many times has that famous footwear caressed a ball into a net? Hundreds. Almost too many to count.

But not this time.

Ask Messi to pick a favourite from his hefty catalogue of goals and he will cite this one, spirited beyond Edwin van der Sar in the 2009 Champions League final. You might expect him to choose the Messiest of all Messi goals. Apex Messi. As Messi as it gets. A trail of defenders left on their backsides, or a free-kick squeezed in off the crossbar via the logic of Cubism. This, however, was a very different creature, almost the antimatter of Messi. Or, to put it another way, a header.

“My favourite goals are more than just attractive; they are important,” the Barcelona icon later explained, recalling that crowning moment at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. “It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me too.”

Still only 21 and cleanly shaven, Messi certainly had a lengthy to-do list as he lined up against Manchester United. There was the fact he had missed the 2006 decider through injury – plus a treble mission to complete, with Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka troubadours vying to become the first Spanish side to win the Liga, Copa del Rey and European Cup.

There were other battles too, such as Messi’s nascent duel with United star Cristiano Ronaldo, a young man laser-focused on greatness. And this was also that long-ago era, somewhere between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, when it supposedly meant something that Messi had never scored against a Premier League team. The cave drawings mention wet Tuesdays in Stoke, but beyond that little has been preserved.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Those began to look like frivolous concerns when Samuel Eto’o fired Barcelona in front after just ten minutes. Messi had been involved in the build-up, but he was yet to leave his personal mark on the match. Instead, it was Barça’s slick passing and collective power that radiated at the end of Guardiola’s first season in charge. As Irish TV commentator George Hamilton enthused: “It’s not poetry in motion: it’s geometry in motion.”

United, the holders, could only scratch their heads – as they would again at Wembley two years later. Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who had seen it all, could offer no solution. And his team’s demise took even firmer shape with 20 minutes to go, which is when Messi re-enters the picture.

As a Barcelona attack fizzles out, Patrice Evra makes the mistake of aiming a clearance at Xavi Hernández, who strides down the right and gauges the angles. Ronaldo, meanwhile, is slow in tracking back. The result is a cross, looped perfectly into the area beyond Rio Ferdinand, where Messi misjudges the flight. He’s overrun it, surely.

Yes, but then this happens. Leaning away as he hangs majestically in the air, the Barça No10 finds the right contortion to head back across Van der Sar, whose jaw drops as the ball sails above. And by the time it finds the far corner, Messi has crumpled to the earth, his boot popping off to be held as a temporary trophy on a jubilant run to the corner flag. Then come the team-mates, led by Thierry Henry, astonished by the little man’s giant leap.

Messi, among the shortest players on pitch. Whose first 700 goals for club and country included just 24 headers. This was a rare beast indeed. And yet it was a goal so unMessi-like that it arguably looms above the rest as peak Messi. Proof that the man who can do everything can actually do everything. A Premier League finish to break his duck against English clubs. And delivered with the foremost tool of his trade – the real one, not those boots after all but his all-seeing, all-calculating and goalscoring cranium.

Racing away to celebrate, Lionel Messi kissed the boot he was brandishing in his right hand. Then he brought it to his lips and embraced it again. And what could have been more natural…arguably the best player in the world, a miracle-worker with those very same boots, celebrating another goal with the foremost tool of his trade. After all, how many times has that famous footwear caressed a ball into a net? Hundreds. Almost too many to count.

But not this time.

Ask Messi to pick a favourite from his hefty catalogue of goals and he will cite this one, spirited beyond Edwin van der Sar in the 2009 Champions League final. You might expect him to choose the Messiest of all Messi goals. Apex Messi. As Messi as it gets. A trail of defenders left on their backsides, or a free-kick squeezed in off the crossbar via the logic of Cubism. This, however, was a very different creature, almost the antimatter of Messi. Or, to put it another way, a header.

“My favourite goals are more than just attractive; they are important,” the Barcelona icon later explained, recalling that crowning moment at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. “It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me too.”

Still only 21 and cleanly shaven, Messi certainly had a lengthy to-do list as he lined up against Manchester United. There was the fact he had missed the 2006 decider through injury – plus a treble mission to complete, with Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka troubadours vying to become the first Spanish side to win the Liga, Copa del Rey and European Cup.

There were other battles too, such as Messi’s nascent duel with United star Cristiano Ronaldo, a young man laser-focused on greatness. And this was also that long-ago era, somewhere between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, when it supposedly meant something that Messi had never scored against a Premier League team. The cave drawings mention wet Tuesdays in Stoke, but beyond that little has been preserved.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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