Lionel Messi invites himself to Cristiano Ronaldo: unlike the Portuguese, eliminated Friday, the Argentinian validated Saturday against Naples (3-1) Barcelona's ticket for the final tournament of the Champions League in Lisbon, with a goal scored and a small alert to an ankle.
Inseparable for a decade, when they fought for the Ballon d'Or with trophies and records, the two ogres of world football will not share the poster of the quarter-finals of the C1 this time.
The fault in Lyon, who eliminated Ronaldo's Juventus on Friday (1-0, 1-2), while the striker born in Madeira and passed through Sporting Portugal, in Lisbon, had yet signed a double against OL in the return leg.
Messi, he did the job to the end: with a goal scored (23rd), another canceled (30th) and a penalty caused (40th) against Naples, Messi will see Lisbon, where he will challenge Bayern Munich next Friday in the quarterfinals.
We saw it on Saturday against Naples, despite the silence of the closed session at Camp Nou: "La Puce" is hungry for the game. As often, the N.10 has been omnipresent in the offensive animation of Barça, more dependent than ever of his playing master (33 years old).
It was his powerful shot, deflected by the goalkeeper, which gave Barça the corner on which Clément Lenglet opened the scoring with a header (10th).
- False alert -
Messi then weighed down the mark by sneaking between two opponents, snatching the ball and rolling his left strike flush with the opposite post (23rd).
And what about his splendid sequence, control of the chest and then a small ball stung above the goalkeeper? The referee nevertheless canceled the goal for a slight help of the forearm on the control (30th).
Under these conditions, Barça feared the worst when Messi, appearing in the back of Kalidou Koulibaly to dispossess him of the ball, received the Achilles tendon release from the Senegalese international defender.
Writhing in pain on the lawn, the Argentinian took a moment to recover, while the referee designated the penalty spot. Usually, Messi would have hit him himself but he was remaking his laces when his friend Luis Suarez transformed into force (45th + 1).
False alert: the Blaugrana captain returned from the locker room with the same liveliness and without apparent sign of injury.
"He was hit hard. I suspect that tomorrow he will have more pain, but I think he will have no problem playing against Bayern," reassured the coach at a post-match press conference.
And it took Piotr Zielinski a crude anti-play gesture to stop the Argentinian (60th), author of a full match.
- Can he bring Barça back to the top? -
One year from the end of his contract at Barça, the extension of which is the subject of intense negotiations with the club, this qualification is a relief for "Leo", who has lived a mixed and eventful season without lifting any trophy. , except the title of "Pichichi", top scorer in the Spanish Championship.
He said it himself after the coronation of Real in La Liga, calling on Barça to "change in depth" to hope to compete in the Champions League.
It is at 33 years old, Messi remains blocked since 2015 with four C1 to his record, when Ronaldo (35 years old), to name only him, has five, and the legendary Madrid striker Paco Gento six.
Can he bring Barça back to the roof of Europe on his own? Faced with Bayern in the quarterfinals and before a possible semi-final against Manchester City of his former mentor Pep Guardiola, favorite against Lyon, Messi will need more help, in particular Antoine Griezmann, who returned from injury on Saturday and clearly in need rhythm.
Still, the small Argentine striker is able, with dazzling speed, to put the best defenders in the wind. The unfortunate Jerome Boateng, whom Messi had put on the buttocks of a memorable dribble in the semi-finals in 2015 (3-0, 2-3), remembers. And the reunion with Bayern promises to be hot!
© 2020 AFP