Lionel Messi’s one-man show draws curtain on Manchester United dreams | Sid Lowe

Barcelona’s talisman broke a personal hex and exorcised last year’s demons with yet another mesmerising big-game display

Ernesto Valverde said Lionel Messi had left Old Trafford “dazed”. Six days later, it was Manchester United’s turn. Chris Smalling’s challenge had left him with a bloody nose but on a night where he sometimes seemed to be playing a different sport, he was the one who delivered the knockout blow. He did so early in the second leg, two goals inside 20 minutes enough to end this as a contest – taking Barcelona into the semi-finals for the first time in four years – and turn it instead into a performance, a show, an exhibition of superiority. Ultimately there was little United could do but at least they are not alone.

Messi’s victims are many, and one of them is him. He is a victim of his own ability, of over a decade spent making the extraordinary routine, normalising genius. There are 880 words in this article, but maybe two are enough: Lionel and Messi. For years there’s been a severe shortage of superlatives, all those adjectives inadequate, and this was another of those nights. Sometimes the simplest judgment is the best: Messi is just better.

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