The Argentine scored his second brilliant long-range effort of the week against Huesca to keep the Blaugrana on Atletico Madrid's heels

What do you imagine when you think of Lionel Messi scoring a goal?

Perhaps you envisage the mercurial Argentine dancing through an opposition defence before powering a shot past a forlorn goalkeeper.

Or maybe the six-time Ballon d’Or winner is producing a delicate finish that few others would even realise is on.

He could even be curling home an inch-perfect free-kick into the top corner.

What Messi has rarely done over his career, though, is wheel out rasping, long-range finishes out of nowhere. That, after all, was always Cristiano Ronaldo’s schtick across the Clasico divide during the pair’s great La Liga rivalry.

But this is a new Messi, though in what way he is new is not quite clear.

Is he still angry following the mistakes of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s presidency – a tenure that despite ending in October did not reach its nadir until February’s thrashing at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain?

Certainly lashing the ball in with the ferocity he has shown over the past week would suggest he still has some pent-up emotions that require some release.

Is this is a Messi who is letting it all hang out, aware that he now only has weeks before he bids farewell to the club that made him the player he is?

Or is this a relieved, revived Messi; one that is feeling the freedom to express himself again in all new ways after the toughest year of his career, knowing he will need to be the linchpin at the heart of Barca’s resurrection?

Quite what is driving the 33-year-old right now only he knows, but there is no question that whatever it is is bringing the best out of Barcelona’s talisman, and getting them into a position where a lost season could all of a sudden have a memorable ending.

Though Messi’s bolt from the blue in the return leg against PSG was not enough to spark a remarkable Champions League comeback, it was the highlight moment on a night when Barca showed more than enough to suggest they are not as far behind Europe’s elite as previous results would have you think.

They are certainly not on the level of Bayern Munich or Manchester City yet as their rebuild begins, but when Messi is in the mood, they have the capabilities to at least challenge the continent’s elite.

The draw at Parc des Princes stretched Barca’s unbeaten run to six heading into Monday’s meeting with Huesca, and it was yet again Messi who took centre stage on the night he equalled Xavi atop the table of Barcelona appearance makers.

Messi marked his 767th outing for the club with a supreme strike from distance; his curling effort seemingly appearing from nowhere to clatter in off the underside of the crossbar.

Though finished with more finesse than his PSG strike, this was another Messi goal that would have left supporters in the Camp Nou stunned, had there been any in attendance.

It may not win the contest for best goal scored by an Argentine this weekend thanks to Erik Lamela, and some will argue it was not even the best Messi has scored this week.

Oscar Mingueza Lionel Messi Barcelona 2020-21

But the most important thing is that Messi is producing these moments of magic once more.

His goal was the spark Barca needed to secure 4-1 win that moves them to within four points  faltering La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, whom they still have to host before the end of the campaign.

With a place in the Copa del Rey final already assured, Ronald Koeman’s side are currently dreaming of completing a domestic double. There are those who will argue that they should be considered strong bets to do so, too.

With Messi in inspired form, they have been the outstanding team in Spain in 2021, picking up 37 points from the last 39 available. Only an 89th-minute Cadiz penalty in February has stopped them from taking a full quota since the turn of the year.

Koeman seems to have found a winning formula, with his fluid 3-4-3 able to quickly become a 4-3-3 as the consistently impressive Frenkie de Jong flits between defence and midfield.

They are far from perfect, and on another night Huesca could have scored three if not for a fine Marc-Andre ter Stegen save to deny Pablo Maffeo and a remarkable close-range miss from Rafa Mir either side of the latter scoring a pretty debatable penalty on the stroke of half-time.

But Barca look like they are enjoying their football for the first time in around a year, and no more so was that evident than when Antoine Griezmann took a leaf out of Messi’s book to smash home his own long-range effort in the first half.

Barca made the points safe after the break as La Masia graduate Oscar Mingueza headed home a cross from Messi for the defender’s first goal in the senior ranks.

That was Messi’s seventh assist of 2021 to go with his 17 goals, the latest of which came in the last minute as he curled in a low strike from the edge of the area.

They are not just any goals, either. They are goals Messi has never scored before.

And yet, only he could probably score them.

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