Lionel Messi got off the mark for PSG with a typically spectacular goal against Champions League rivals Manchester City, but there was another image from Tuesday night which fans say summed up the Argentine icon.
Messi swept home a superb left-footed strike from the edge of the box in the 74th minute at the Parc des Princes after charging up the pitch and exchanging passes with Kylian Mbappe.
The crowd exploded at the sight of the six-time Ballon d’Or winner bagging a first goal in PSG colors, and in a fashion seen so many times before during Messi’s days at Barcelona.
JUST LISTEN TO THE ROAR THAT COULD BE HEARD ALL OVER PARIS
Notice how Messi instantly points to Mbappé who provided the brilliant assist pic.twitter.com/aa5n6FAtaq
— mx (@MessiMX30i) September 28, 2021
1⃣2⃣1⃣ #UCL goals for Leo Messi #PSGMCI pic.twitter.com/6IfHZblcQB
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) September 28, 2021
But while the goal summed up Messi’s enduring brilliance – also putting PSG out of sight at 2-0 up in the match – there was another image which fans pointed to as showcasing the Argentine’s humble genius.
As the visitors lined up a free-kick towards the PSG goal in injury time, Messi was seen lying on the ground behind his team’s wall, adopting a position that has become fashionable in recent years as a way of stopping shots sneaking in under the wall.
Lionel Messi isn't afraid to do the dirty work pic.twitter.com/oJG6FATnZr
— Goal (@goal) September 28, 2021
It was an unusual sight to see Messi stretched across on the Parc des Princes turf, and fans and pundits reacted by claiming it encapsulated the 34-year-old’s willingness to do the dirty work for his team.
“Humility is what makes greatness,” wrote one fan.
“Here’s the greatest footballer of all time rejecting the chance to wear his friend’s number 10 and is wearing jersey number 30 and now he’s lying on the ground to defend PSG’s lead! That’s what legends are made of!”
Referee: Why are You lying down?
Messi: Do you have any problem?
Referee: But you are a GOAT.
Messi: Team first pic.twitter.com/bQA22m4ez4
— Nungua Burna (INFORMATIONWC WIASE) (@viewsdey) September 28, 2021
The best thing about Messi is that he doesn't know he is Lionel Messi pic.twitter.com/oY2z9i6Jl6
— ᵣₒₙ (@cfcRon___) September 28, 2021
Some joked that Messi was simply hiding from PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino in order not to be substituted, after their tense exchange when the star was taken off in a league game against Lyon earlier this month.
Messi: If Pochettino can’t see me he can’t sub me off pic.twitter.com/NFHKYi7eCy
— MC (@CrewsMat10) September 28, 2021
Messi’s PSG teammate Neymar chimed in, joking on Instagram about his surprise at seeing his strike partner down on the deck behind him.
Neymar Instagram : What are you doing here! Messi pic.twitter.com/JpNqAGkDFh
— JuniorMessi Muhammad Sobug (@JuniorMessiMS10) September 28, 2021
Elsewhere, former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand said he would be happy to lie down in place of Messi, claiming it was “disrespectful” to make the icon get his kit dirty.
“The moment Mauricio Pochettino asked him to do that at the training ground, someone should’ve gone in there and said, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no,’” Ferdinand said on BT Sport.
“This doesn’t happen to Leo Messi. It’s disrespectful, I wouldn’t have it.
“If I was in that team, I’d have to say, ‘Listen, I’ll lay down for you.’
“Sorry, I couldn’t have him laying down like that. I can’t see it.
“He don’t get his kit dirty, that’s not what Messi does.”
Rio Ferdinand would do anything for Messi pic.twitter.com/bf9BbT501A
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) September 28, 2021
Although the behind-the-wall blocking tactic has been around for some time, fans claimed that Messi’s own free-kick threat was part of the reason why teams often adopted it as an extra line of defence.
How ironic Messi he's one of the reasons why free kicks are defended like this. pic.twitter.com/s4u2S3DLIs
— KıÑğ (@KhuTs00) September 28, 2021
Hi, I'm Messi! And this was invented because of me pic.twitter.com/X3mC1Aq7Dw
— യമാല് (@TeamYamal) September 29, 2021
And of course, comparisons with Messi’s perennial rival Ronaldo were unavoidable, with some fans claiming the Manchester United star would never do the same for his team (even though Ronaldo tends to be among those standing in the wall due to his 6ft 1in frame).
The Portugal icon’s infamously poor attempt at defending a free-kick for Juventus against Porto last season was also dragged up.
Jokes aside this really shows how humble Lionel Messi is and how he’s willing to do anything to help his team…I just can’t imagine Cristiano Ronaldo doing this pic.twitter.com/Y9q5A8xLzj
— Don (@Opresii) September 28, 2021
Messi showing Aerospace Jack Bauer how to defend freekicks. pic.twitter.com/ILnIzxKonr
— BeksFCB (@Joshua_Ubeku) September 28, 2021
Him standing with the wall pic.twitter.com/YtLJOkWUii
— Trafalgar D. Water Law (@Jenamena3) September 29, 2021
Messi’s goal on Tuesday night was his 121st in the Champions League but his first for a club not named Barcelona.
“I’m adapting to my new team,” the star said afterwards.
“The more we forwards play together, the better our relationship will be. We all need to grow together and improve and keep giving our best.”
It seems that adaptation includes occasionally lying down on the job.
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