Pep Guardiola lauded Lionel Messi as “unstoppable.”
I don’t think many would disagree with the Bayern Munich manager. But, I’m sure Pep was hoping his backline could stop him in their upcoming champions league match against Barcelona. That was all before the game.
Turns out, Pep was right. In Messi’s 100th European appearance, he proved once again he could not be stopped.
He scored two late second half goals to lead the demolition of the German champions 3-0. His second goal was a hand over your mouth moment as he brought the Bayern defender Jerome Boateng to the ground with a devastating cut. Memes and videos flooded Instagram praising Messi.
Not that this is Messi’s first time or anything.
Messi’s skill and intuition for the game supports Pep’s claim about Messi’s dominance. That is clear to see. But, I think Guardiola understands at a greater depth why he can’t be stopped. I think it is not only because of his skill but also because of his strong presence in the big moments of big games.
Barcelona’s champions league win was in no way as easy as the lofty score line indicates. For a long period of the night, Barcelona was being held scoreless by Bayern Munich. The German side would have been fine taking a 0-0 draw back for a second leg on their home soil. If that was the case, Barcelona would still maintain a chance in the second leg. But, that was not how it was to be written. Mostly, because Messi wouldn’t allow it.
He recognized that this was yet another big moment in his career. A big moment with a big opportunity to lead his team.
As we all know, there are two types of leaders in sports: the vocal and the lead-by-example. Messi, known to be a quiet and humble player, would fall into the lead-by-example.
In tonight’s match, he did just that. He produced for his team with two impactful goals in the 77′ and 80′ minute of the match. Two goals that flipped the entire two-leg series on its head. Now along with the late Neymar goal, the Catalans take an insurmountable lead to Germany for the second leg.
I think many soccer fans would argue that Messi’s ability to change games like that is because of his special soccer skills. I wont disagree. But, I will add that Messi possesses leadership qualities that make this performance even more impressive.
He shows time and time again the ability to recognize moments in games where his team needs him to change the game. It takes a truly dominant leader to see these moments and act on them.
This is what makes Messi unstoppable. Both his dominant skill and his fearless leadership.