In keeping with the extraordinary nature of his record-breaking career the player had complained of a headache before the one-man demolition of the team that just four days earlier had beaten Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
“It’s not easy to score five goals in one game. I can say that because I only scored 11 in my entire career. Give him another game and he will equal me,” said manager Pep Guardiola after the game.
Bayer Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt said: “There are no words for Messi and with him in the side Barça are from another galaxy.”
Messi’s five goals mean for Barcelona and Argentina he has now scored 250 goals in 378 games, 49 in 53 games this season. His tally in European matches is now 54.
He has 49 goals in the Champions League 12 this season — that is twice more than the second highest scorer Mario Gómez’s six goal tally.
To put the records in context, Raúl was 27 when he reached the 49-goal mark in the Champions League. Messi is three years his junior. He draws level with Alfredo Di Stéfano as the sixth highest goalscorer in the competition’s history.
Guadiola said: “He is the best in the world and I am lucky to say that I have coached him. He is unique in terms of talent but also in terms of his competitiveness.
“He does not think about the big records. He scores one and tries to score the second; he gets the second; and he wants the third; that is how he thinks.
“He is among the greatest of all time. When Di Stefano played they said there would never be another and along came Johan Cruyff; they said there would never be another and along came Maradona; now we have Messi.
“And I should include Pelé or he will get upset.”
The Barcelona manager was beaming not just with Messi’s incredible performance but with his team’s annihilation of Bayer Leverkusen.
One year ago today they scraped past Arsenal at this stage of the competition with a 3-1 home win that gave them a 4-3 aggregate advantage.
This time the final score read 10-2, making a mockery of any suggestions they are slipping after 13 trophies in the last four years. Guardiola admitted he used Arsenal’s courageous performance against Milan the night before to warn his players against complacency.
He said: “Arsenal had nothing to lose in the first half and they scored three but in the second half suddenly there were expectations and pressure on them to complete the comeback and it was not so easy.
“Milan were too relaxed in the first half and in the second half they had to fight to get through. We did not want to repeat that.”
Messi opened the scoring on 25 minutes from a Xavi Hernandez pass. He got the second from a Cesc Fabregas pass just before the break and in the second half with Barcelona already safely into the quarter-final draw he went into overdrive.
He scored from Andrés Iniesta’s pass four minutes into the second period, and again after 58 and 84 minutes.
Cristian Tello also scored two goals and on any other night the 20 year-old would have been the story, but there was no overshadowing the little man who is beginning to dwarf so many of the game’s greats.
There was a fight between Bayer Leverkusen players after the first leg as to who would take his shirt — this time he kept it on as he picked up the match ball and made for the tunnel.
“It’s nice to score five goals, I don’t recall having done it before in my career, I’m very happy,” he said.
Guardiola had given him a week off after after a fifth yellow card in La Liga ruled him out of last weekend’s league game.
The rest appeared to have done him the world of good. — Telegraph.