FC Barcelona

Anatomy of a goal: Lionel Messi's magical mazy run in Copa del Rey final

Max Cooper
Apr 18, 2021, 1:15 PM GMT+1
That smile
That smile / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Well, well well. Stop me if you think you've seen this one before.

Let me take you back, if you do need your memory jogging. The year was 2015. Barcelona were on their way to winning a famous treble, with one of the most lethal attacking tridents in football history.

MSN: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar. The former was enjoying a devastating season, where he would hit 58 goals in all competitions across the campaign.

But it was his stunning solo strike in the Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Club that really caught the eye, and sticks in the mind when we think of truly magic Messi moments. The attacker picked up the ball just inside the Bilbao half, pinned against the byline, then wriggled free, weaving beyond a series of desperate tackles and smashing the ball inside the near post.

It. Was. Glorious.

Fast-forward six years then, and an old saying jumps to the fore: The more things change, the more they stay the same. That team of 2015 is long gone; MSN was disbanded, club legends left and the European trophies dried up.

Lionel Messi
An all-too familiar pose this year / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

But one constant remained: Messi.

And so, after a torrid year filled with uncertainty and backstabbing, the chance arose to kick off a new era with a trophy, and convince Leo that the good times can come rolling back once again. Only, as always, he'd have to be at the heart of it.

Luckily, the Argentine was on fire against Bilbao in Saturday's 2021 Copa del Rey final, helping Barça to a commanding 4-0 victory over the side beaten for the second time in two weeks in the finale of this very competition.

It was Messi's first and Barça's third which really transported us back to the year 2015, although this time, the old man got by with a little help from his friends. Dictating the game and pulling a confidence-shot Bilbao to shreds, the Barça captain received the ball in his own half under pressure from two players.

He dodged both snapping tackles, poking the ball to a teammate as if rebounding the sphere against a wall, receiving it back and setting off on his mazy journey down that right flank. He glided beyond one tired tackle, avoiding the outstretched leg desperately trying to bring him down.

Messi veered inside, aware that this time, he wouldn't be able to do it all on his own. Luckily, the insanely talented Frenkie de Jong was stood in front of the talisman, waiting to give and go to his heart's desire.

The ball was pinged into De Jong's feet, and quick as a flash, he returned it to Messi, who in turn sent a first-time knock back into the Dutchman's path. Bilbao were absolutely mesmerised by this spell of passing, and could do nothing as De Jong allowed a split second for his teammate to get up to speed, and then laid a ball into open space on the right-hand side of the box.

Messi raced onto the pass, only to find himself closed down quickly by a covering defender. Not to be robbed of his moment, the 33-year-old shimmied, ducked, dived and dodged, dropped his shoulder and stepped inside onto his left foot.

It was so obvious, yet it was so good that it couldn't be stopped. Now facing Unai Simon, who looked ready to throw in the towel, Messi literally passed the ball towards the far post. There was just enough pace to convince Simon not to dive towards the corner, but not enough to spare him from looking very silly.

It was a goal of sheer class, the likes of which we've seen time and time again from Messi, and one which we're unlikely to see often once he hangs up his boots. For now, we can only be grateful that he's playing the game with a smile on his face, and the best player on the planet is still tearing teams apart like he was in his twenties.

A genius.