CL

'Majestic' Messi leads way for Barcelona

Lionel Messi led the way for Barcelona – but his team-mates look more than capable of following ©AFP/Getty Images

Lionel Messi has been doing so many extraordinary things for so long that nobody can be surprised he marked the exact week of his arrival in Barcelona, 18 years ago, with a brilliant hat-trick in Tuesday's 4-0 home win against PSV Eindhoven.

MATCH AS IT HAPPENED

Such is his majesty – a word coach Ernesto Valverde used to describe the Argentinian's 32nd-minute free-kick that made it 1-0 against PSV – that he has drained his team-mates of descriptive powers.

Jordi Alba has run out of superlatives for Messi©Getty Images

I have heard Dani Alves say Messi is "from another planet", and Xavi Hernández make it clear his former colleague is the "greatest footballer ever". Here, after his 101st, 102nd and 103rd UEFA Champions League goals, full-back Jordi Alba complained, in jest, "all that's left for us now is to repeat ourselves".

Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen added, thoughtfully, "Messi is so often the guy who opens up games for us as he did tonight, but there are others on the pitch. We all have to help him."

Which is part of what made this evening a little different.

Messi's eighth UEFA Champions League treble – putting him closer to Cristiano Ronaldo as all-time top scorer in the competition and one clear of CR7 in hat-tricks – suggested his side are responding to the promise the 31-year-old made upon inheriting the captain's armband from Andrés Iniesta.

Messi is the new captain of this Barcelona team©AFP/Getty Images

"I'm going to do everything in my power to bring this beautiful, historic trophy which we love so much back to this stadium" is what Barcelona's newly appointed skipper told the Camp Nou crowd a few weeks ago, on the night of the club's traditional Gamper friendly celebrating their eponymous founder.

Ousmane Dembélé clearly heeded the call. His soaring, daring run in the first half led to a foul via which Messi arced the ball past Jeroen Zoet for the opener in this Group B curtain-raiser. It was as good as an assist.

Then the Frenchman cut from left to right across Zoet's area before rocket-launching the 2-0 goal. Messi-esque.

This is relevant because, although Messi added a lovely half-volley from Ivan Rakitić's chip and then buried Luis Suárez's set-up flick, he cannot win the UEFA Champions League single-handed.

Genius, even Messi's, has its limits. Not in beauty, not in wonder, not in creativity, not in desire. But this great tournament rewards teams, not just individual genius. He knows it, and it seems Barcelona are taking note.