Lionel Messi stood before 99,354 Barcelona supporters at the Camp Nou before a 3-0 preseason victory in the Joan Gamper Trophy against Boca Juniors and made a bold declaration. In his first season as club captain, with legends Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Carles Puyol, and Pep Guardiola in the rear-view mirror, the Argentinian promised that the Blaugrana would reclaim Europe’s premier trophy after a three-year spell of dominance by rivals Real Madrid.
The 2008-09 team was one of the best sides in club football history, with Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry combining with the likes of Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta to form one of the most star-studded teams ever assembled. The 2014-15 team represented the peak of the so-called “MSN” era, as Messi, Suárez, and Neymar became arguably the most deadly attacking trident in the sport’s history, scoring 364 goals and racking up 173 assists across 450 appearances from 2014-2017.
Therefore, this Barcelona team does not have the typical features of a treble-winning side, but the greatness of Messi has propelled them to the brink of an inevitable tenth La Liga title during his time at the club, a Copa del Rey final against Valencia, and their first Champions League semi-final since 2015. The Argentinian has been incredible this season even by his own lofty standards, with 45 goals and 22 assists across just 44 games and looks poised to claim a record-setting sixth Ballon D’Or as he chases his fifth Champions League trophy.
This Barcelona side had not been talked about in a treble discussion for much of the season with talk of an unprecedented potential quadruple for Guardiola’s Manchester City. Following the Citizens’ quarterfinal elimination at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, however, the Blaugrana appears ready to assume the role of favourites heading into their tie against Liverpool.
Messi has achieved incredible heights throughout his career to establish himself as arguably the greatest footballer of all time, including scoring a record 91 goals in a calendar year, winning a club-record 32 trophies at Barcelona, becoming the club’s all-time top goalscorer and the winningest player in La Liga history. Nonetheless, leading this imperfect Barcelona to glory could be perhaps his greatest achievement given the situation.