The irony of how superbly Lionel Messi played in Barcelona’s 4-0 defeat of Manchester City simply linked to the fact that he’s beginning to treat his former mentor a trifle too robustly.
Pep Guardiola has come back to the Camp Nou twice as a rival manager and during two aggregate 7-0 defeats it is his star pupil, Messi, who has scored five times, got an assist and won a penalty.
Not what you’d call gratitude.
Watch Messi’s hat-trick
But, all joking aside, what stood out about the Argentinian’s hat-trick (taking him to six goals in the UEFA Champions League already this season) was where he scored them from and where he positioned himself during the match.
The irony is that when Guardiola decided to make Messi a central attacker rather than a winger he always used the expression: “He’s our best player and the more often we use him closer to the opponents’ goal, the more often he’s likely to score.”
The Guardiola-Messi tandem ripped up record books. Brilliant maestro and brilliant favourite pupil.
Whether you want to call his position ‘false nine’ or withdrawn striker it turned him from an important weapon in Barcelona’s armoury to an irresistibly prolific force of nature.
Guardiola reflects on City defeat
But times change and so do positions. Messi was still the lead central forward when Luis Suárez arrived at the Camp Nou in 2014 but between the Argentinian and the Uruguayan they agreed that the new boy needed to play in the No9 position and that Leo would return to the right wing.
The fabled ‘treble’ of trophies followed within five months of that decision.
Since then, however, Messi has been enjoying many more plaudits for his brilliant ‘quarterback’ passing from midfield.