The debate, if there ever was one, over who deserved to be named the best player in the world was probably settled on Wednesday night.
Lionel Messi embarrassed Bundesliga power Bayer Leverkusen in a Champions League match that will be talked about for a long time. The creative Argentine scored five goals in the match, as Barcelona defeated Leverkusen 7-1 in the second leg, and 10-2 on aggregate.
Lionel Messi put on a show on Wednesday at Camp Nou.
There had been a long-running debate about whether Cristiano Ronaldo was more deserving of FIFA Player of the Year honors. Like any superstar, Messi has his a collection of detractors, and they are quick to point out that Barcelona's system, as well as the playmaking skills of Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, are major contributors to Messi's success.
But on Wednesday Messi was absolutely dominate as he set a Champions League record for five goals in a match. On four of his five goals, Messi basically created his own shot, and it didn't matter if it was Xavi feeding him, or a ball boy.
His first was a break away where he lifted the ball over the goalkeeper. Messi's second goal was pure brilliance -- taking the ball from just beyond the box and ripping a left-footed shot from the right side through heavy traffic.
The hat-trick goal was another bold example of Messi's ability to execute on a break away. Goal No. 4 was rather lackuster, as Messi simply tapped in a rebound off a blocked shot by goalkeeper Bern Leno.
The final goal was probably the best, as Messi unleashed a left-footed shot from distance that curled into the net.
Leverkusen were terrorized by the 24-year-old from Rosario. At only five-foot and six-and-a-half inches, Messi makes good use of his expert ball control, and mesmerizing touch. The Leverkusen defense weren't exactly opening holes for Messi to shoot, but the little magician found a way to creat the opportunities to score.
Messi's overall season goal total is at 48, and he's just seven short of Cesar Rodriguez's all-time club record of 235. Rodriguez last goal for Barcelona was in 1955, so the fact that Messi will likely break the long-standing record at such a young age, and for such a famed club, is extraordinary.
"He's the best (ever). There is no other like him," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "The numbers speak for themselves. One day he'll score six. We're very fortunate to have Messi, so we have to take advantage of him."
Here's a look back at Messi's goals against Leverkusen:
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