As soon as Messi gave Balenziaga the death stare we all knew it was over. As simple as that. Messi hadn’t scored the stratospheric 0-1 goal yet, but the final was already over. You don’t poke a beast and expect to live after that. Balenziaga tried to take Messi out of his game by fouling the Argentinian numerous times and grabbing him by the shirt at every opportunity. He had one mission and that was to man mark Messi. And Balenziaga interpreted that one way: stick to Messi as a gum would to the sole of a shoe. Had Messi gone to the bathroom, Balenziaga would have opened the door for him.

The Basque defender then sealed his fate when he grabbed Leo and applied a wrestling lock that infuriated the man from Rosario. Messi didn’t take that tactic well at all. He had enough of Balenziaga’s kicks and dirty tactics, so Leo gave him a stare that would’ve obliterated the Berlin wall. After that we were all witnesses to one of the greatest goals ever.

Messi, nonchalant, received the ball a few meters away from the half-line on the right side of the pitch. The first thing he did was dribble past Balenziaga, leaving him in the dust. Leo then sprinted right by the touchline and it looked like the play was reaching its end. Two Athletic players were waiting for him in order to trap him, using the touchline as their ally. Well, it doesn’t work out like that when you’re defending against the best player in the world. Messi decelerated a little when he saw Beñat sprinting at full speed toward him. He then shifted the ball from his right foot to his left one in the blink of an eye. This caused Beñat’s own momentum to leave him out of the play and Messi had beaten yet another Athletic player.

Balenziaga had recovered from Leo’s dribble near the half-line of the pitch and tried to help out his teammates. “Tried” being the operative word because he failed yet again. Messi got past him again with complete ease. The Basque defender closed his feet because he didn’t want to be yet another victim of a Messi dummy, but he still ended up being humiliated. Leo gave the ball a little touch and made an auto pass, leaving Balenziaga behind him for a second time in less than 10 seconds.

Out of nowhere appeared Mikel Rico who tried to bring Messi down with a hard foul, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from his mission. The little Argentinian accelerated and left Rico right behind him. By this time Messi had gotten past Balenziaga (twice), Beñat and Mikel Rico as if he was playing in a normal pickup game in his backyard and not in the Copa del Rey final in front of the more than 98,000 people in attendance at the Camp Nou.

Messi sprinted toward the penalty area with the ball glued to his left foot, like always. Laporte appeared right in front of him, but Leo did what he always does and what nobody has yet found a way to stop, even though they know exactly what he’s going to do. That’s what differentiates footballing gods from good players; everybody knows what these celestial beings are going to do but they still can’t stop it from happening.

Messi hooked Laporte, went to his left for his famous diagonal run and when Iago Herrerín thought Messi was going to curl it into the far post, Leo went and blasted it to the near post. In theory, a goalkeeper should never, ever, be beaten at his first post, but we’ve got to put this goal in context. Messi was only a few meters away from Herrerín, meaning that a powerful shot toward the near post had a high percentage of going in due to its velocity. Plus, Suárez was rushing like a furious bull toward the goal and this confused Iago a bit. The Uruguayan had to lift both of his feet in a split second in order to get out of the way of Leo’s shot. This, added to the proximity of Messi to Herrerín, meant that the Basque goalkeeper was beaten to “his” post. The rest is history.

Messi continues to amaze the entire footballing world. When we think we’ve seen it all from Leo, he goes and does something spectacular like Barcelona’s first goal against Athletic. He always does. Leo’s brain is hardwired to his feet; his mind imagines a footballing piece of art and then his feet go and draw it on the football pitch. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini.

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