The greatest player in the history of football was, and remains, Diego Armando Maradona. But in this evening's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg match between Arsenal FC and and FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou, I, we, saw the man who might, just might, wrest that accolade from Maradona: Lionel Andrés Messi.
Arsenal lost 4-1, despite taking an early lead 19 minutes into the match with a goal by the Danish striker, Nicklas Bendtner. Barcelona responded with four stunning goals, all from the boot of Messi. Barcelona won the quarter-final tie 6-3 on aggregate, having drawn 2-2 with Arsenal in the first-leg at the Emirates last week. Messi's dazzling performance confirmed what Barcelona and Argentina hoped (and perhaps knew), and their rival teams feared: that Messi, at just 22, is indisputably the best football player in the world. As an Arsenal fan, I was of course disappointed to see Arsenal fail, yet again, in its bid to win the European Cup, but who can begrudge Messi his moment of glory and not applaud what can only be described as a masterclass in the art and science of football?
The only question yet to be answered is this: Can Messi reproduce his incredible club form for his country at the World Cup in two months' time?
We shall see.