The aftermath of a sparkling showing that shot down the mighty FC Bayern Munchen in the Champions League semi-final first leg has been awash with praise for Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
Two goals from the Argentine ace helped Los Blaugrana to a 3-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s men and simultaneously hit his price to win the 2015 Ballon d’Or with the shrink ray.
Now 1/3 from evens to claim the award for the fifth time this year, players, pundits and punters alike have been busy coming up with newfangled, cliché-free ways of smothering Messi in plaudits, ranging from the best to grace planet Earth to simply ‘unstoppable’.
His former coach Guardiola coined the latter superlative in his pre-match press conference, stating there is no blueprint capable of containing the 27-year-old when he’s on song, but a fortunate few have unearthed a formula to halt the great man and it’s proved to work on multiple occasions.
Massimiliano Allegri appears to have an inkling as to what it is, or at least the results the rearguard of his mediocre Milan side mustered against Messi indicate as much.
In the first five matches the current Juventus boss managed against Barcelona, the Catalan club’s talisman was unable to bag from anywhere but the penalty spot.
The insight Allegri is clearly in possession of is sure to make a potential Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona especially interesting for those to back the 7/1 Serie A overlords to hoist Ol’ Big Ears.
Being Premier League-based is apparently an important factor in stopping Messi too, so long as the English opposition he’s facing is at home.
Across ten visits to England he has only found the net once, which came in the 2013/14 Champions League last-16 against Euro novices Manchester City.
The goal that helped sink the Citizens 2-0 at the Etihad was a penalty converted after Manuel Pellegrini’s men had been reduced to ten men and it came on his ninth away day in the British Isles.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea (who achieved the feat an unfathomable four times) have all kept the Argentine off the scoresheet in their respective backyards.
Diego Simeone is another to have cracked the Messi-shackling code after a few botched attempts at mastering the art during the early days of his Atletico Madrid tenure.
The Barca forward owes the pre-Cholo Colchoneros’ defence for a good wedge of the goals that propelled him to the top of just about ever scoring chart ever penned, notching 13 in nine before Atleti’s present rudderman assumed control.
Since Simeone’s December 2011 appointment he has managed just five in 12, four of which came after 80 minutes had been clocked, confirming even his foiled plans to keep Messi under wraps had savoured a certain degree of success.