How Lionel Messi 'just being on the pitch' can inspire Barcelona to Champions League glory

Spanish league leaders came from behind to draw 1-1 with PSG and advance to the Champions League semi-finals on away goals

He did not start. He did not score. He did not even have an attempt at goal. Yet the mere presence of Lionel Messi on the pitch against PSG has been credited for ensuring Barcelona progressed to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Before the game there were serious doubts about Messi's participation. After coming off at half-time in the first leg with a hamstring problem, there was uncertainty whether he would even make the bench.

After he failed to participate in the pre-match warm up it was even suggested that his inclusion among Tito Vilanova's substitutes may have even been a ruse to put the fear into their French opponents.

Yet after Javier Pastore put the visitors ahead, it was fear that Barcelona could miss out on reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 2007 that gripped the Nou Camp. Cue the introduction of Messi.

Erring on the side of caution no longer made sense and Messi replaced Fabregas. It arrival on the pitch changed the entire landscape.

On 71 minutes Messi ran at the heart of the PSG defence and played in Villa with a superb pass. He then laid the ball back and Pedro swept it past Sirigu to level the match - a score line that would remain until the final whistle ensuring Barcelona's progress.

Carlo Ancelotti's side also had a substitute up his sleeve in David Beckham, but the former England captain made little impact after coming on. He was no match for Vilanova's intervention.

"Messi is the best player in the world, simple as that," said Beckham, who had been dreaming of a Wembley final with his latest team. "He came on when we were 1-0 up and they scored. A player like him, 100 per cent fit or not, will always make the difference."

While Messi had little time to make a direct impact, his mere presence made the difference according to David Villa.

"Messi is the best player in the world and he changed the game just by being on the pitch," he said. "We have to congratulate him for his show of commitment to the team and to football. It is thanks to him, and everyone else, that we have qualified."

Jordi Roura, Barcelona's assistant manager added: "It was a pact that we had with him that if things weren't going well, we would bring him on. He is so important and his presence on the field conditioned the game after we had conceded a goal and made an impact on the opponent.

"Once again he has shown his competitive spirit and desperation to always be there for the team and we have to take our hat off to him."

Pedro said: "He made a great effort. He is very important for the team and this week he has worked his upmost to get here. We need to thank him for his involvement. The team turned around completely with his introduction."

While there was little doubt that Messi was below full fitness, the four time Ballon d'Or winner showed that along with his almost unrivalled armoury of passing, shooting and dribbling, he can add a new weapon - aura.

"Messi certainly gave his side a confidence boost because, even at under 100 per cent, he is still a fantastic player," said PSG director Leonardo after the game.

Messi's team-mate Gerard Pique added: "It doesn't matter if he's a little bit injured - he can change everything. We are very proud and lucky to have him in our side. He's our reference as a striker - he can score, he can pass, he can do anything and everything."

The Spanish have a word for his importance to the team: Messidependencia – simply Messi-dependence. His impact last night proves why such a word exists. That Barca can depend on Messi even when he's not fit should strike fear into the three other sides remaining in the competition.

The draw for the semi-finals is made tomorrow.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin