The two most expensive players in earth were on show last night as Real Madrid did battle with their great rivals Barcelona at the Bernabeu in a fixture simply known as El Clasico.
There was also an up and coming Brazilian called Neymar, as well as a galaxy of stars and talent.
None of this mattered, however, as the greatest player on earth propelled his side to a 3-2 win to throw the La Liga title race wide open – there are now three contenders Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and of course Barcelona. All is set up for an incredible title decider between Atletico and Barcelona at the Nou Camp at the end of the season.
Lionel Messi had been criticised of late for not being on the ball, there’s even been talk the second highest scorer in La Liga history may leave the club that’s been his home since he was a childhood prodigy. Well, that’s not going to happen now – when it matters Messi makes it count. It was so against Manchester City in the Champions League, and it was so last night as he scored his second hat-trick in a row to silence the some 53, 000 that had gathered largely to watch and pay homage to their own Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid were reduced to ten men for the last twenty minutes of this pulsating game, which saw Messi set up the first goal before a Ronaldo penalty put the homeside 2-1 ahead within fifteen minutes. At that point, it looked as though Barcelona may rue three missed chances against their much fancied opponents. By the half time whistle Messi had restored parity in a game that had been played at a blistering pace. Surely, both sides couldn’t keep this up in the second – yes they could as Messi cooly slotted in two penalties to become the highest scorer in El Clasico history. Real will complain that they were handicapped by the referee, but they also had the two most expensive players in the world on their side. Money of course can’t buy you success and as Messi showed last night it doesn’t make you the greatest player on earth either.
FT: REAL MADRID 3 BARCELONA 4