What more can be said about Lionel Messi? Once again, the Argentine came up trumps for Barcelona at a crucial stage of a huge match, with Messi’s two brilliant goals in the final quarter of an hour of the game helping the Catalans take a likely decisive 3-0 lead over Bayern Munich.
Both were typical Messi strikes. The first saw him wrongful Manuel Neuerwith a powerful shot from outside the box that beat the German at his near post. The second, well, no-one else in the world could have scored the second.
Before the match Pep Guardiola said Messi was unstoppable, while Neuer said he was ready to show the Argentine ‘who’s boss’. It is fair to say one of the Bayern pair was proved very, very right, and one comprehensively wrong.
Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
What must Manchester City think when they watch Carlos Tevez in theChampions League this season? The Argentine, who didn’t manage to score a single goal in Europe’s premier competition while at the Sky Blues, has bagged seven this season, leading Juventus to the brink of the final.
Tevez was a man possessed against Real Madrid, creating the first goal and scoring the second himself from the penalty spot, after Dani Carvajalresorted to illegal means to stop the Argentine as he burst into the box.
There have been rumours that Tevez might seek a return to Boca Juniorsthis summer, but given his superlative form this season, Juventus will surely block any attempts to pry the Argentine away. With 29 strikes in all competitions already, Tevez has equalled his best tally since he leftCorinthians for Europe in 2006, and his form in the Champions League demonstrates how much more he has to give at the highest level.
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
One of the more annoying aspects of the hysteria that surrounds Manuel Neuer’s frequent forays outside the box is that it obscures just how good the German is at the more orthodox aspects of goalkeeping.
For 75 minutes of Bayern’s clash with Barcelona, Neuer was the only thing keeping the tie in the balance. Twice he denied the hosts in one on one situations, first against Suarez, then Dani Alves. Neuer also produced his arrogant best when strolling across his goal to catch a Messi free-kick that perhaps every other keeper in the world would have dived to save, and threw in his party trick to come out of his box to deny Suarez again.
First, Messi powered a shot past the German at his near post, with Neuer already on the move expecting the Argentine to aim for the far corner. Then Barcelona’s maestro dinked the ball over Neuer, before Neymar nutmegged him.
It is telling that the best goalkeeper in the world put in a great performance and still ended up losing 3-0. The fact that it was Neuer in goal makes those Messi heroics just a little more special.
Alvaro Morata (Juventus)
When Real Madrid sold Alvaro Morata to Juventus in the summer, retaining the option to buy back the Spanish forward at some point in the next few seasons, they probably thought they’d wangled what amounted to a pretty savvy loan spell at a top European club.
Given Juventus, and Serie A in general’s, relative decline on the European stage, Los Merengues almost certainly would not have reckoned on Morata coming back to haunt them in a Champions League semi-final.
Morata might not have celebrated his goal against his former club, but there was no doubt the striker was incredibly eager to make a point to Carlo Ancelotti. Alongside his brilliant strike partner Tevez, Morata harried the Juventus defenders throughout, and he was a constant outlet for the Bianconeri, holding up the ball superbly.
The youngster’s clever movement not only ensured he was in the perfect spot to dispatch the opener when Tevez’s shot was saved, but also pulled the visitors’ back four out of position to allow the Argentine to charge through to win the penalty.
The Spaniard has already won the Champions League with Real Madrid, and could well go on to enjoy many great European glories with Los Merengues, but if he leads Juventus past his former employers next week at the Bernabeu, it will be a tough night to top.
Dani Alves (Barcelona)
Dani Alves has come in for more than his fair share of criticism over the past few seasons, but if and when the Brazilian leaves Barcelona this summer, the Catalans face a nigh-on impossible task trying to replace him.
While Messi stole the show at the Camp Nou, Alves was the key support act, pressing Bayern mercilessly. The 32-year-old made six tackles, four interceptions and five clearances, leading the hosts in every category, and it was his relentless attempts to win the ball back that led to Messi’s opener.
Alves pounced on Bernat to win the ball high up the pitch, neatly beat Xabi Alonso and played the ball to Messi to fire home. Typical Alves, typical Messi, typical Barcelona. Who knows what Guardiola must have thought watching it happen to his side
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
Tevez was insatiable, Morata irrepressible, and in the middle of the pitchArturo Vidal took one look at Sergio Ramos and decided to show the world exactly what being a central midfielder entails. But none of those three produced the moment of the night. That was left to the bloodied and bandaged Giorgio Chiellini, whose mastery of the team foul has no equal.