18 Times Messi Was A Creative Genius

The 18 moments that define Lionel Messi’s brilliance as a creator.

Lionel Messi transcends typical descriptions of an athlete.

There is just one way to properly define one of the greatest soccer players of all time — he is, simply put, a creator.

But to say Messi just creates goals would be like saying the Beatles just create music. Messi, whether playing for his club Barcelona or the Argentina national team, makes the beautiful game beautiful. He scores goals, sure, but he does so artistically. He creates goals for teammates, yes, but he generates attacks no one else can see with agility and raw skill. 

When Messi eludes a defender, he doesn’t just use unmatchable speed or strength like many others. He uses quick movements, tactical genius and, most importantly, an uncanny agility the likes of which the soccer world has never seen.

Whether closed down by five defenders or sprinting behind a defense, Messi always manages to stay on his feet — he won’t dive in the box to earn a penalty. 

It’s Messi’s combination of mind and body, creativity and agility, that make him the world’s most unstoppable force on the pitch. It’s why his feet and the Nemeziz from adidas have become synonymous.

Made for creators only, the Nemeziz allows Messi — and those who aspire to play like him — the freedom of agility and fusion of mind and body unavailable with any other boot. With all due respect to those who came before him, Lionel Messi is the greatest creator soccer has ever seen. For proof, we’ve compiled the 18 moments that best define Messi’s ingenuity, agility and serenity on (and off) the pitch. 

Here are 18 times Lionel Messi was a creative genius on the pitch.

18. Messi’s Most Marvelous Champions League Night

In 2012, Messi was at his height (well, one of his heights). He scored a career-best 73 goals for Barcelona, including 14 in the Champions League, also a career best. His 91 goals including international strikes were a world record. 

Messi’s brilliance that season was on full display in a Champions League Round of 16 second leg against Bayer Leverkusen. Having won the first leg 3-1 in Germany, Barcelona returned to the Camp Nou knowing a simple draw would suffice to advance. But Messi was not interested in a simple draw.

On March 7, 2012, Messi scored five goals — a record for a UCL knockout round match — to direct a 7-1 demolition of Leverkusen. 

Messi scored in the 25th, 43rd, 49th, 58th and 85th minutes in one of the most dominant performances in the history of the Champions League. 

17. Messi Takes Out Pepe In Front Of Ref

Lionel Messi is an amazing teammate. While he is most well-known for his goal-scoring exploits, he’s a brilliant passer and will do anything to help a teammate score. 

On April 2, 2016, Messi did his best to help Gerard Piqué score against rival Real Madrid.

On a corner kick early in the match, Messi bowled over Blancos defender Pepe to open up space for Piqué on the back post. 

What makes this play so genius is that because of Messi’s reputation, he was able to do make the play right in front of the referee, who just assumed Pepe was the man committing a foul. (To be fair, Pepe probably would’ve committed a foul on the play had he not been fouled first.)

The play didn’t work out for Barcelona, which didn’t score on the corner kick (though Piqué would net a goal in the second half). Plus, Real Madrid won 2-1, though Barcelona won the league by one point.

16. Messi Hair

While Lionel Messi’s biggest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, is pretty consistent in his hair — short and manicured — Messi has gone through a plethora of hairstyles over the years. 

From his floppy, flowing mane of his youth to headbands to a brief dalliance with blond hair, Messi isn’t afraid to try new things on the pitch and on his head

And it’s not just the mop on his crown but his facial hair as well. At the start of his career, Messi didn’t look like he could grow a single follicle on his face, even if he wanted. Lately, he’s sported a brilliant, full beard. 

15. Messi Crushes Arsenal With Four In UCL Quarters

Arsenal has never won a Champions League title. The two of the three best chances Arsene Wenger had to win the tournament were ended by Barcelona. The first was in the 2006 final, when Messi, then 18, did not play in the match. The second was in 2010, when Messi singlehandedly crushed Arsenal.

After a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the quarterfinals at the Emirates, Messi scored a hat trick before halftime to put Barcelona comfortably in the lead. He added a remarkable fourth in the second half and Arsenal hasn’t been back to the quarterfinals since.

The highlights from the match showed Messi’s powerful long-distance shooting, visionary passing, deft chips over keepers and eye-of-the-needle accuracy, a true creator at his best.

14. Messi Magic Against Liverpool

Admittedly, we all know how the second leg ended, essentially negating his brilliance in the first leg. But at the time, it looked like Lionel Messi had ascended to a higher level, becoming the greatest footballer to ever grace this delicate planet.

Barcelona defeated Liverpool 3-0 at the Camp Nou in the first leg, seemingly clinching its spot in the final. Luis Suarez scored in the first half to set the stage for Messi magic in the second.

First, Messi converted an easy tap-in goal when a Suarez shot caromed off the crossbar. Then, he produced one of the most magnificent free kicks you will ever see. Messi laced his white Nemeziz boots through the orange Champions League ball, sending it screaming past Alisson for what seemed like the goal that would help lift Barcelona to another Champions League title. 

Alas, Liverpool made an insane come back in the second leg before going on to win the title itself. 

13. Messi Never Stops Creating

The cliché says you’ve gotta practice like you play. Lionel Messi certainly takes this to heart.

Messi doesn’t just create magic come gameday. During the week, he’s constantly trying new skills out on his teammates or just pulling off absurd moves during scrimmages

In January of 2019, Messi scored a ludicrous goal during Barcelona training that still has us wondering how he did it.

With a ball lobbed his way near the back post, Messi did a funny little hop before letting the ball strike the inside of his left foot. So flawless was Messi’s touch on the ball that without any of his own strength, the ball flew perfectly into the upper 90 for an insanely good goal that he made look like child’s play.

12. Messi Sinks Manchester United — With His Head?

Lionel Messi has scored 82 percent of his goals with his left foot. This isn’t a surprise, as his may be the best left foot the game has ever seen, combining power, accuracy and bend like few can even dream of. Another 14 percent of Messi’s goals have been scored with his right foot.

That leaves a tiny fraction (four percent) of Messi’s goals having been scored with his head.

For someone who makes a living scoring goals and is always around the box, this is a bit of an oddity. Then again, Messi is listed at just 5-7, a product of a growth hormone deficiency as a child. 

But Messi can and will score with the old noggin when needed, and rarely was it more needed than in the 2009 Champions League final.

Facing off against Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United, Messi sealed Barcelona’s 2-0 win with a delightful header, proving his head can do more than just think of ways to beat opponents with his feet.

11. Messi’s First Foreshadows Creative Genius To Come

On May 1, 2005, Lionel Messi scored his first-ever goal for Barcelona. He would, of course, go on to score hundreds more, but his first was unique, special and a hint of the creative genius he would become.

At the age of 17, Messi faced off against Albacete in LaLiga. Receiving the ball with two men between him and goal, instead of trying to simply beat them, Messi found an easier way around. The young Argentine simply played a ball back to the legendary Ronaldinho, whose deft flick put Messi in on goal.

Not panicking despite his youth, Messi allowed the ball to bounce in front of him, knowing he had time. Instead of blasting the ball past the keeper, Messi lofted a smooth chip past the keeper to become Barcelona’s youngest goal scorer. 

It was the first of many. 

10. Messi Toys With His Hulking Dog

In addition to his work on the pitch and in training, Messi keeps creating even at home when having fun with his family — and his dog.

It’s a bit ruthless, but Messi just toys with his pup Hulk, who is almost as big as he is. 

Messi isn’t wearing shoes while playing with his dog, so just imagine how much better he’d be than poor Hulk if he was wearing his Nemeziz boots.

9. Messi’s First El Clasico Hat Trick

Lionel Messi scored his first hat trick in LaLiga at the tender age of 19. What’s more, he did it against archrival Real Madrid.

In March of 2007, still wearing the No. 19 jersey — Ronaldinho sported the No. 10 back then — and still boasting that sweet floppy hair, Messi put three goals past Real Madrid in El Clasico. 

Ronaldinho was instrumental to the Argentine’s success, but it was still all about Messi in a wild 3-3 draw.

8. Messi’s Brilliance Prevents Epic World Cup Failure

It was a night that, for most Americans, would rather be forgotten. But for Argentines, it was a night of ecstasy.

Facing the real possibility of missing the 2018 World Cup, Argentina trailed Ecuador early in the final CONMEBOL qualifier. Then Messi saved his country.

Messi scored in the 12 and 20th minutes before sealing the victory — and a trip to Russia the following summer — with a brilliant third in the 62nd minute.

The hat trick secured three points, just enough to put Argentina into the top five in CONMEBOL. The last goal, which sent his country into riotous celebrations, was yet another example of Messi’s lightning-fast feet, using his remarkable agility to glide past a defender who for a moment actually thought he might slow Messi down. 

7. Messi Obliterates Real Madrid In 2011 UCL Semifinals

It’s true, Cristiano Ronaldo has won more Champions League titles than Lionel Messi. The Barcelona No. 10 has fallen short in the Champions League more often than he would like, but in 2011, Messi went head-to-head against Ronaldo and Real Madrid in the UCL semifinals. 

Playing the first leg in the hostile environment of the Santiago Bernabeu, Messi was unstoppable, scoring two goals to propel Barça to a 2-0 road win. It was just another remarkable Champions League semifinal for Messi. 

A 1-1 draw in the second leg was enough to see Barcelona through to the final, where Messi would claim his third of four Champions League crowns.

6. Messi Inspires Argentina At 2014 World Cup

While many like to lament Lionel Messi’s inability to win a major international trophy — they conveniently ignore his Olympic gold medal — Argentina has had incredible success with Messi leading the team, even despite the lack of first-place finishes.

In addition to leading his team to the final of back-to-back Copa Americas, Messi inspired La Albiceleste to the final of the 2014 World Cup. 

Early in that tournament, Messi was Argentina’s only spark as he dragged the team through the group stages. This was most evident in his goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Argentina had taken an early lead on an own goal in its tournament opener, but Bosnia frustrated La Albiceleste’s attack for most of the match. Then Messi took matters into his own feet, starting and finishing a brilliant move, rearing back like a cobra near midfield before striking with lightning speed from the edge of the box.

Messi added three more goals in the group stage and was awarded the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

5. Close Your Legs Around Messi 

In defenders’ never-ending, rarely successful quest to stop Lionel Messi, there are plenty of players who think they have the maestro stopped. They lunge in, expecting to knock the ball away from Messi, only to find the ball has skipped through their own legs.

Messi doesn’t seek to embarrass players as some Brazilians live to do; Messi just wants to get past his defender and continue the attack. This often includes the most embarrassing play in soccer — the nutmeg.

Lionel Messi’s ability to nutmeg players is yet another example of his unending creativity, as the above video exhibits. 

4. Messi Silences The Bernabéu

There is no rivalry in sport with more on the line than El Clasico. Other derbies may have more hatred, but no rivalry is as momentous as when Barcelona and Real Madrid face off. 

Never mind being the two best teams in Spain, the Blaugrana and Los Blancos are two of the best teams in the world, year after year. 

In 2017, Barcelona trailed in the first 30 minutes and Messi was briefly bloodied by an elbow from Marcelo. But Messi struck back with an equalizer in the 33rd minute. With the match tied 2-2 in the closing minutes, Messi netted the game winner in the 92nd minute, silencing the Bernabéu crowd.

What ensued was one of the most iconic celebrations of Messi’s career. He ripped off his No. 10 jersey and held it aloft for the Madrid faithful to see. He got one thing wrong though: He wasn’t No. 10. He was No. 1.

3. Messi Imitates Maradona

Sometimes, imitation is its own sort of creativity.

In 1986, Diego Maradona scored what many considered the greatest goal of all time, taking the ball from midfield past the entire England defense to score the goal that sent Argentina to the World Cup final. It left the onlookers (never mind the English defenders) absolutely stunned. It was labeled the “Goal of the Century” and few could argue.

In 2007, just over 20 years later, Messi, then a precocious 19-year-old for Barcelona, replicated Maradona’s otherworldly strike with an incomprehensible goal of his own.

Against Getafe in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, Messi received the ball near midfield and proceeded to skip past the entire opposing defense before scoring. Messi’s final move, a quick burst past the Getafe keeper, showed off the Argentine’s underrated balance and swiftness before he finished from a tight angle.

2. Messi Ends Jerome Boateng

There is perhaps no more perfect example of Lionel Messi’s agility than when he made one of the world’s best center backs collapse to the floor like a felled tree. 

In spring of 2015, Jerome Boateng was on top of the world. He won the World Cup with Germany the summer before and was back in his second straight Champions League semifinal with Bayern Munich.

Then Lionel Messi ended him.

The play began with Messi receiving the ball about 30 yards from goal on the right wing with Boateng the only player between him and Manuel Neuer in goal. Boateng knew he couldn’t let Messi cut in onto his left foot, but when the Barcelona No. 10 feinted inside only to cut back toward the end line, Boateng lost all sense of balance, like a kitten trying to keep up with a laser pointer.

Down went Boateng in one of the most embarrassing blow-by moves in soccer history. But Messi wasn’t done. He burst into the six-yard box before supplying the finishing touch, a beautiful chip past Neuer, at the time the best goalkeeper in the game.

1. The Goal That Defines Messi

There are few times in sports where the grizzled veteran fan is left with his jaw on the floor. May 30, 2015, was one of those rare days.

Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final that day, one of his six triumphs in the competition. His first goal of the day, in the 20th minute, was one of those out-of-this-world moments where you just have to take a moment to catch your breath and feel thankful you live at the same time as this genius.

Starting the play at midfield, Messi manages to bamboozle three defenders before cutting inside past a few more Bilbao players to smash home one of the most absurd goals in the history of the game.

The strike, in essence, is the purest definition of who Messi is as a goal scorer. His vision to see where to go on the field, his ingenuity to escape defenders and his agility to glide into the box for the shot are why he is the greatest goal scorer in the game — and why you should probably check out his Nemeziz boots.

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