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Messi first took on Chelsea in the opening leg of Barcelona’s Champions League

Lionel Messi when first took on Chelsea in the opening leg of Barcelona's Champions League last-16 clash

Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi had just another day at the Camp Nou, shutting the critics who had for the last few years strictly pointed out his non-scoring run against Chelsea. The Argentine maestro did it and he did it with grace, after ending his goalless run against the Stamford Bridge club in the opening leg of Barcelona’s last-16 clash with the reigning Premier League champions he once again came to haunt Antonio Conte with a double at the roaring Camp Nou.

Messi ran through Chelsea’s backline and dismantled their dreams of making it into the last eight of the elite European competition, while also giving them a reality check of where the standards of English football lie. After Sevilla ousted an overconfident and overprotective Manchester United at their home, few would have questioned Barcelona’s abilities to take the clash by the scuff of the neck and thrash Chelsea’s dreams of making it into the last eight. Messi scored a double and created another for young sensation Ousmane Dembele, who opened his Champions League scoring account for the Blaugrana.

Barcelona coming into the game after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge never looked like a team playing to protect the away goal from coming but capitalised on the openings and converted them into goals. Messi’s display left the Nou Camp mesmerised and Antonio Conte couldn’t help himself applauding one of the best football talents he has ever witnessed. Rating Messi as a fantastic player to have in any team, Conte said players like him are born once in a blue moon.

“We are talking about a player who can move the final result for every team, for any team he is playing in,” Conte said in the post-match conference and went on to add that Messi will probably finish his career with Barcelona. “He started to play with Barcelona and for sure he will finish his career in Barcelona. Many teams can hope to have him on their team, but it won’t be possible. This is a great story for Barcelona and Messi. This type of player is born [once] in 50 years. We are talking about one single player with this capacity, with this ability, with these skills. He’s fantastic. We are talking about a player who is able to move the final result for the team for whom he is playing,” reckoned Conte.

After Messi was done feasting on Chelsea’s struggling defence with walloping balls and sleek passing, he was received warmly by Conte, who congratulated him on his scintillating display and hailed his goal-scoring prowess. Conte was quick to respond that someone of Messi’s stature who can score 50-60 goals almost every season deserves all the praise in the world. “It’s right to praise a super, super, super top player. A player who is able to score 60 goals in every season, not only for one season. I’m very pleased to have the opportunity at the end of the game to give him my compliments because we are talking about an extraordinary player, the best in the world,” said the Italian manager.

Chelsea though were completely dominated by the La Liga leaders, had their chances in front of the goal which they failed to make use of. Marcos Alonso’s free kick in the first half went almost in and Antonio Rudiger’s second-half header hit the crossbars, ensuring Chelsea had nothing to show for their efforts. Conte credited Messi for Barcelona’s victory and hailed him as the decisive man in the setup.

“If you watched the game, you can see the final result is unfair, our start was terrible, to concede a goal after only two minutes. But, after this, we tried to play football for a long time and dominated the game, creating chances to score. Over the two legs, we hit the post [or crossbar] four times. This is very strange. I think that a fantastic player moved the final result and the qualification. In these two legs, Messi moved the final result. He scored three goals. He made a decisive pass for Dembele to score.

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