City’s collective brilliance outshines the need for a superstar like Messi – The Athletic

There aren’t so many occasions these days when Lionel Messi, as used to be his way, makes it difficult to believe there can ever be enough superlatives in existence to cover what he does on a football pitch.

As much as we might not want to admit it, he does not torture opponents in a way that makes you suspect he must belong to a different orbit. You can watch him now without the thought occurring that maybe he is just temporarily on this planet.

Still, though, he is capable of moments that make you wonder how much fun it would have been if all that eye contact with Manchester City last year had led to him playing in the Premier League.

One of those moments came in City’s 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium when the six-time Ballon d’Or winner stopped dawdling — and, boy, he really does like a stroll these days — to remind his audience about the precious magic in his feet.

As Messi received the ball in midfield, there were two City players in close proximity and the nearest, Oleksandr Zinchenko, was quick to close him down. Not quick enough, though. Messi wriggled clear. Raheem Sterling was next and an instinctive cheer went up as Messi, being Messi, slipped the ball through his opponent’s legs.

There is nothing more patronising for a footballer at this level than succumbing to a nutmeg and, briefly, the mind went back to the time James Milner made the mistake — silly boy — of diving into a challenge on Messi during City’s visit to the Nou Camp in 2015.

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