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Five times Lionel Messi lit up the Champions League

There are few superlatives yet to be bestowed upon Lionel Messi, the Barcelona superstar once again recognised as the finest player in world football by winning a record-breaking sixth Ballon d’Or last year.

The 33-year-old continues to make the extraordinary look ordinary, Messi providing breathtaking brilliance at the highest level routinely for over a decade.

Few players have had such an impact on the top level of world football, and ahead of Barca’s UCL last 16 clash with Napoli tonight we’ve decided to look back at some of his most memorable performances in European competition.

Here are five of Lionel Messi’s best Champions League displays…

Barcelona vs Arsenal, Champions League quarter-final – 2010

For some reason, there remains an almost snobbery and arrogance amongst a section of Premier League fans that a player can not truly be regarded as a great if they have not tested themselves in English football or against England’s elite.

That, of course, is rubbish, and Messi’s single-handed destruction of Arsenal in 2010 ended any nonsensical and hypothetical discussions of whether he could cut it on a wet, windy night at Stoke.

Barcelona were favourites heading into the second leg of their quarter-final meeting with Arsene Wenger’s side, having secured a 2-2 draw at the Emirates, though they would fall behind in surprise fashion to a Nicklas Bendtner goal.

The narrative of Lord Bendtner stealing Messi’s thunder was too good to be true, however, as the diminutive Argentine produced an almost effortless four-goal massacre to seal Barcelona’s place in the last four.

The Arsenal defence simply couldn’t cope with Messi as he fired home his first two of the evening, before a delightful chip secured his hat-trick and doubled Barcelona’s advantage.

He would net a fourth from an acute angle to complete the scoring, becoming the first player in the Champions League era to score four times in a single game during the knock-out stages.

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Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona, Champions League semi-final – 2011

Arch-rivals Real Madrid would await in an all-Spanish semi-final in 2011, and it would once again be Messi who would decide the contest in a high stakes El Classico meeting.

Travelling to the Bernabeu for the first leg, Messi would put Barcelona on the brink of a final performance courtesy of a two-goal performance.

Firstly, he would get across the front of Sergio Ramos to turn home Ibrahim Affelay’s cross, before a stunning individual goal that would see him go past four Real Madrid defenders before calmly finishing to put the game to bed.

A draw in the second leg would see Pep Guardiola’s side through, where English opposition would be awaiting…

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Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United, Champions League final – 2011

Messi would lift the famous old trophy for the third time courtesy of a brilliant team display at Wembley, a performance that led beaten Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to describe Barcelona as the best side he had faced.

The Catalan side headed into the showpiece as favourites, in a rematch of the final two years earlier in which they had also triumphed.

Messi would prove to be the architect of a brilliant footballing display, Pep Guardiola’s side displaying their tiki-taka style at the height of its success to seal a famous victory.

A dominant performance would have Messi at the heart of it, scoring with a fierce drive to put his side ahead after Wayne Rooney had cancelled out Pedro’s opener.

David Villa would seal the trophy, Barcelona champions of Europe once more.

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Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen, Champions League last-16 – 2012

Peak Messi and another one-man destruction of seemingly hapless opponents.

Bayer Leverkusen were the team dismantled this time, heading to the Camp Nou in the last-16 looking to overturn a two-goal first leg deficit.

Their hopes were soon extinguished, however, as a Messi-clinic in finishing secured Barcelona a 7-1 second-leg victory, Barca’s number 10 becoming the first player in the Champions League era to score five times in a single fixture.

A pair of signature chips were added to the forward’s endless highlights reel, with three perfect left-footed finishes completing the rout.

His five-goal haul would be part of his record-breaking tally of 91 for the calendar year in 2012, breaking a 40-year record held by Germany and Bayern Munich legend Gerd Muller.

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Barcelona v Bayern Munich, Champions League semi-final – 2015

Bayern Munich had embarrassed Barcelona in the last four on route to winning the trophy two years earlier, winning 7-0 on aggregate in a humbling defeat for Messi and his teammates.

They would be drawn together once more in 2015, where Barcelona would exact sweet revenge on their German rivals.

Chances would be squandered by both sides before Messi took proceedings into his own hands, first beating Manuel Neuer at his near post for his first before scoring an iconic knock-out stage goal.

Squaring up Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, Messi would leave the Germany international in a heap on the turf with a sharp feint before deftly chipping Neuer to put the Spanish side in control.

He would set up Neymar for the third to complete the victory, Barcelona later advancing despite defeat in the second leg and being crowned champions of Europe for a fifth time with final success over Juventus.

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Chances would be squandered by both sides before Messi took proceedings into his own hands, first beating Manuel Neuer at his near post for his first before scoring an iconic knock-out stage goal.

Squaring up Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, Messi would leave the Germany international in a heap on the turf with a sharp feint before deftly chipping Neuer to put the Spanish side in control.

He would set up Neymar for the third to complete the victory, Barcelona later advancing despite defeat in the second leg and being crowned champions of Europe for a fifth time with final success over Juventus.

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