Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid: Remembering the Night Lionel Messi Went From Wonderkid to Superstar

Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid: Remembering the Night Lionel Messi Went From Wonderkid to Superstar
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​It’s March 10, 2007, and the two titans of Spanish football are locked in one of the tightest title races in over twenty years.

With both sides being knocked out of Europe, this was built to be one of the biggest Clasicos in recent history, and it would go on to be one of the most memorable thanks to a stunning performance from a certain Argentinian teenager.

Barcelona's Leo Messi (C) is congratulat...

It had been a pulsating 90 minutes, during which Los Blancos took the lead three times thanks to a Ruud van Nistelrooy brace and a Sergio Ramos header.

But in injury time, Lionel Messi – who had already equalised twice – finished brilliantly after a sublime dribble to complete his first Barca hat-trick and cap off one of the great individual performances of all time.

In the space of one evening, football had found its next superstar.


Key Talking Point

Having suffered two recent league defeats and surrendered their Champions League crown with defeat to Liverpool, the air of invincibility that surrounded Barça was slipping, and they knew Madrid were breathing down their necks.

Having fallen behind three times in the match, they needed something special to get them out of jail and keep them on top.

Copa del Rey Semi Final - Barcelona v Getafe

Luckily, they had a 19-year-old Messi, who scored his first by calmly slotting passed Iker Casillas, before smashing in his second after a superb save.

They struggled for much of the second period following Oleguer’s red card in the first half, and with Ronaldinho and Eto’o struggling break down a dogged Madrid backline, Messi needed to step up

Of course, that’s exactly what he did with his brilliant last-minute finish after a trademark run to not only secure his hat-trick, but also become the new Barcelona talisman, and take his first major step into making himself into one football’s all-time greats.

Barcelona Player Ratings

Starting XI: Valdes (6); Thuram (5), Marquez (6), Puyol (7), Oleguer (3); Deco (6), Xavi (7), Iniesta (7); Messi (10*), Eto’o (6), Ronaldinho (6).

Substitutes: Sylvinho (6), Belletti (6), Gudjohnsen (6).

Lionel Messi

Barcelona's Argentinian Leo Messi celebr...

Even after everything he has achieved, this was one of Messi’s greatest performances.

Yes the goals he scored were clinical, but every other aspect of his near-perfect game were also on show. His speed, his intelligence, his dribbling, his ability to keep the ball, his passing and his underrated work rate ensured that Madrid couldn’t lay a glove on him.

It was a display that has rightly gone down in history, and was the first of many signs that Barcelona had a genius on their hands.

Real Madrid

Key Talking Point

The Galactico era was coming to an end at Madrid, but they had recorded a 2-0 home win over Barça that season and were in red hot league form.

They had the perfect start when Lilian Thuram’s botched clearance from a Higuain cross led to a rare Van Nistelrooy goal from outside the box, before the Dutchman converted a penalty to make it 2-1 after Guti was ‘tripped’ by Oleguer. Once the Barça defender had been sent off, the visitors went on to dominate the second half.FBL-ESP-FC-BARCELONA-REAL-MADRID

Van Nistelrooy missed several good chances before Sergio Ramos’ header from a Guti free kick looked to give Madrid a huge win before Messi stopped the party.

This game will forever be remembered as Messi’s Clasico, but Fabio Capello’s side should never have let that happen with the amount of chances they wasted.

Real Madrid Player Ratings

Starting XI: Casillas (8); Salgado (7), Ramos (6), Helguera (6), Torres (6); Guti (8*), Gago (7), Diarra (6); Raul (7), Van Nistelrooy (7), Higuain (6).

Substitutes: Robinho (5), de la Red (6).



While Casillas made some outstanding saves, Guti’s ability to control the game was on show here.

He often got Madrid out of trouble by driving the ball forward, drawing fouls, and finding some passes that had no right to be made, and also won the penalty and floated in a beautiful free kick to set up their third goal.

Things That Aged Worst

Barcelona's Brazilian Ronaldinho (L) wat...

Considering the teams involved, it was strange seeing the full-backs not bomb forward – almost as weird as seeing Barça keeper Victor Valdes kicking it long, rather than starting the possession-based play we associate with the Catalans now.

Individually, knowing the player he once was, Ronaldinho was disappointing, particularly with his final product. Same goes for future Manchester City forward Robinho – who rather than play in Higuain so Madrid could kill the game – did some fancy stepovers and gave it away.

Finally, the persistent fouling and pettiness really threatened to ruin a fantastic match, with ten cards being shown overall (yeah, standard Clasico fare). Oh, and some of the hair cuts are terrible, with Gonzalo Higuain’s mullet in particular need of calling out.

Things That Aged the Best

Robinho,Andres Iniesta

Apart from Messi, it was brilliant to see baby-faced duo Andres Iniesta and Xavi running the Barcelona midfield, with their effortless control making the game look easy.

Samuel Eto’o was very lively, Carles Puyol led the Barça defence superbly, Raul was drifting round the final third expertly, and Sergio Ramos hasn’t changed a bit.

Players You Completely Forgot Existed

The referee Alberto Undiano gives a yell...

Oleguer apparently played 127 times for Barcelona, and hopefully he never played that badly in any other game for the Catalans as he did on this night.

As for Madrid, hands up who remembers Ruben de la Red? The midfielder, who scored for Spain at Euro 2008, fainted in a Copa del Rey game in 2008 – at the age of just 23 – due to a heart condition. He never played another professional game, retiring officially in 2010. 

What Happened Next?

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas (2n...

Barça lost the title this season on the head-to head rule, and Pep Guardiola replaced Rijkaard as manager a year later. That, famously, went quite well.

As for Madrid, they won La Liga on a dramatic final day – not enough to keep Fabio Capello in a job (he took over England next, which went…less well). Bernd Schuster took over and won the league the following season.

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