The Champions returns to give him the back to Messi

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The Argentine is left out of Europe’s top competition in the round of 16 for the second consecutive year. Pointed out at the Bernabéu, he sees the option of achieving a fifth crown receding.

Leo Messi, during the match at the Bernabéu. Kiko HuescaEFE

Leo Messi has played at the Santiago Bernabéu for as long as he can remember. Leo Messi has experienced everything in that stadium, from unforgettable victories to bitter romps in his last season at Barcelona. As fate would have it, he set foot in the home of Real Madrid once again, this time with the shirt of his new team, PSG, and when the referee blew the final whistle, the Argentine left with his head down. He walked a bit, stood up, greeted indifferently whoever held out his hand, and went to the locker room aware that, once again, the Champions League had told him no.

Many place him without hesitation on the podium of the best footballers in history. Not in vain, seven Ballon d’Ors shine in his record, a fact that makes him the most successful with this award. The Champions League, however, continues to be inhospitable terrain for him, no matter how strange it may be to say that to someone who owns four. However, that number, four, pales if you review the teams he had during his 17 seasons at Barça. The Argentine, in fact, only played three finals, because in the first, in 2006, he was absent due to a muscle injury. Now, when the fact of being in a PSG full of stars seemed to give him clear options to add one more title, he has been eliminated again without palliative. And, for the second consecutive year, in the eighths.

Messi’s face on Wednesday night at the Bernabéu was a poem. It was practically the same rictus that he already had on his face when Barça was ridiculed by Roma and Liverpool. In the first of those games, Ernesto Valverde’s team went down 3-0 in the second leg of the 2017-18 quarter-finals, after winning 3-1 in the first leg. In the second, in the 2018-19 academic year, meanwhile, the reds endorsed them with an incontestable 4-0 at Anfield that made the 3-0 at Camp Nou useless. Much harder, however, would be the humiliation against Bayern in 2020, in Lisbon. The Bavarians ran over the azulgrana in the quarterfinals, played in a single match, with a more than blushing 8-2. Philippe Coutinho, then loaned to the German team, to make matters worse, scored two of those goals.

‘ENEMY’ MOURINHO

Messi’s troubles in the Champions League began very soon. In the 2004-05 season, he saw, somewhat from the sidelines, how José Mourinho ‘s Chelsea eliminated Barça in the round of 16, in a crossroads in which a tremendous enmity would be forged between the Portuguese and the Barcelona environment that would last during years. Although he had made his official debut with the first team in October 2004, Frank Rijkaard did not call him up for either of those two duels. A season later, the azulgrana would take their revenge by eliminating the bluesin that same round, in a tournament that would culminate in the victory in Paris against Arsenal. The following campaigns, still with the Dutchman on the bench, would end with another elimination in the round of 16, in this case against Liverpool, and one in the semifinals against Cristiano ‘s Manchester United .

The Argentine, without a doubt, lived his best moments in this tournament alongside Pep Guardiola . Between the 2008/09 and 2011/12 campaigns he managed to add two trophies, with a decisive role in both, and twice reached the semi-finals. Inter, precisely Mourinho’s, and Chelsea would block their way in 2010 and 2012, respectively. With Luis Enrique , meanwhile, he would win his last major trophy (2015). Now he will have to wait until next season to at least dream of playing another final. The French media pointed to him as one of those responsible, and that despite being the owner of a neat party. But not enough.

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