Just in case there was any question whether Lionel Messi was the best goalscorer in the world, he ended any debate with an incredible performance in his first UEFA Champions League match of the season.
Barcelona enter the year as a favorite to win Europe's most prestigious club championship, but they were actually placed in a relatively tough group, featuring Ajax Amsterdam, AC Milan and Celtic. It was important to get off to a good start against Ajax in Wednesday's match.
Messi made sure that this happened with a hat trick to lead his side to a 4-0 victory over the Dutch opponent.
What made this performance so impressive was not just the fact that he scored three goals. Instead, the Argentine showcased his ability to score in three very different ways.
His first goal came at the 21-minute mark on a free kick, when he put a perfect amount of curve to drill it in the top left corner of the net, out of reach from the opposing goalkeeper.
It took until the second half for Messi to notch his second goal, this time coming on a fast break. He received a pass from Sergio Busquets, but then needed to utilize great footwork to open up an opportunity near the net.
He finally found an opening and fired the ball to the right side of the goal.
The hat trick came in the 75th minute. Barcelona's official Twitter account describes the play:
Picture perfect shot Leo Messi from the top of the box to make it 4-0, his third of the night. #FCBLive— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 18, 2013
Which player had a more impressive hat trick this week?
Messi showed patience while waiting for an opportunity to present itself. He then put the ball in a position where no one could get to it, even though it was not a fast shot.
In each of these plays, the forward was able to take an opportunity and finish in a way that hardly anyone in the world would be able to match. Additionally, it is difficult to imagine any goalkeeper in the world being able to stop any of these shots.
While Cristiano Ronaldo also recently recorded a hat trick to open up Champions League play, Messi's plays required a higher degree of difficulty, and he completed them with little help from anyone else.
The performance against a quality team in Ajax proves that he is still the best scorer in the world.
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