Lionel Messi scored five goals in a single game last week, becoming the first player in the Champions League ever to do so. Most were impressed; some were not. Against Bayer Leverkusen, they said: So what? It is a familiar argument -- and one that Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular have been forced to confront time and time again. Between them, they have racked up astonishing goal scoring figures, breaking records at every turn -- Messi has scored 50 goals already this season, Ronaldo 40 -- but the nagging doubt lingers. Yeah, they say, but against who?
It was a historic win of sorts -- Bayer Leverkusen had not won any of its last seven games against Spanish teams in Europe -- and remarkable in the most enigmatic of ways. After the 2-1 win over Valencia on Wednesday night, players and officials weren't quite sure whether they should revel in a rather sensational second-half comeback or be shocked about the opening 40 minutes, when the whole team had "disappeared into an abyss of horror," as Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote. Michael Ballack, a 35-year-old veteran who has been around the block a few times, declared that non-performance before the break "probably the worst I've been involved in as a footballer."