CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – Madrid’s best enemy is back: Lionel Messi and the Bernabeu, a tumultuous relationship

Obsessed as we are with Kylian Mbappe’s health and future, we would almost forget another big event of this round of 16 return between Madrid and Parisians. On Wednesday evening at 9pm Lionel Messi finds a lawn he knows by heart having walked on it every season since 2005. , and took on the role of sworn enemy for long seasons. Without ever really being recognized by the merengue audience.

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Professor Messi follower of masterclasses in Madrid

His first major performance at the Bernabeu dates back to 2009, in a match where he led a thunderous attack with Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry, humiliating the arch-rival (6-2) with a double and a decisive pass. In the following years, the Pulga donned the professor’s costume several times to give various “masterclasses”, from their cult slalom during the defense of Madrid in 2011 (2-0) to their hat-trick in 2014 during one of the biggest Classics in the history (4-3).

Messi loves this stadium, from which he has always managed to tame the pressure, to become the top goalscorer in the history of Barca-Real oppositions over the years with 26 goals. As a symbol, 18 of these goals were scored in the Spanish capital. His successive demonstrations were at times even able to recall the class with which Ronaldinho had splashed a 2005 Clasico, to the point that the entire Santiago-Bernabéu crowd stood up and applauded the Maestro. The Madrid crowd is certainly tough, but it was able to be lenient on the talent. With Messi, never.

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He didn’t get a standing ovation, but he couldn’t get one

He would have deserved this ovation, but where Brazil’s genius epitomized football and the fun of the game, Messi represented him as the enemy to be shot and tried to thwart as much as possible. This provocative relationship over the years has clearly been catalyzed by Mourinho’s stint at Real Madrid (2010-2013), with tougher Clasicos, in a much more unhealthy atmosphere. The southpaw has become the main target of the Madrid defenders and the public has logically followed with zeal the repeated attempts by Sergio Ramos or Pepe to take the Argentine out of his games, with strong tackles or all kinds of provocations.

Despite this preferential treatment, the problem also lies in the rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. This duel between the two attackers has so crystallized Spain and the football world over the years that it was impossible for the Bernabeu crowd to even think of applauding the Argentine, at the risk of offending his Portuguese star. CR7’s attitude makes it difficult, if not impossible, to love either player, especially if you’re a Casa Blanca aficionado. If Messi didn’t get his ovation in Madrid, it’s because he simply couldn’t get it.

Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona celebrate the Argentine’s goal in stoppage time during a Clasico . from 2017

Credit: Getty Images

In the end, Messi accepted to be the target of the Merengue, and he, who is usually so calm, even became a follower of the opposition, even of the comrades of the Madrid public. First there was this eviction that was forcibly sent into the stands in April 2011, during a season when the Clasicos had succeeded the Clasicos and the two clubs faced each other five times. And then, above all, this celebration in 2017, after giving the Catalans (3-2) the victory after extra time, arms raised to the Madrid crowd with the jersey aloft like a trophy. Even when he last scored in Madrid in 2018, the look defied by Madrid supporters symbolized this entire 15-year relationship between the public and their tormentor. This impossible respect, which has become mutual disenchantment.

A punishment to evacuate, a tendency to recover

Madrid fans, however, have not shied away from their pleasure to see Leo Messi remain silent on his last four visits to Madrid. An even more striking symbol of his poor pass against the Merengue, the seven-time Ballon d’Or has gone eight games without scoring against Real. But in the Champions League, he only played once at the Bernabeu in 2011 for a double in the semi-finals including a masterful goal. Enough to assuage the fiercest zeal on the Spanish side before Wednesday’s shock.

Lionel Messi celebrates his goal on the Real Madrid lawn with FC Barcelona

Credit: Getty Images

It will also be necessary for the Argentine to overcome the disappointment of the missed penalty in the first leg, and more generally to ignore a disappointing season so far. With such a well-known stadium, it may have more benchmarks this season than in Ligue 1. Entering the Madrid lawn on Wednesday night, Messi will be whistled, no surprise. But if Kylian Mbappe’s left foot takes the shock, La Pulga won’t have the mark of “number one threat“He had with Barcelona, ​​and is perhaps more free of it. It would only be more dangerous for the Merengues.

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