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.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
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.

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past