Lionel Messi, a human sand-timer slowly running out
His goal in the second leg against Chelsea is the fastest he has ever scored for club or country
Lionel Messi is a petulant schoolkid. He pulls away chairs as defenders are about to sit down, hides all their pencils before the maths test and gives them tie-days so suffocatingly tight they can only be resolved with a pair of scissors.
He is carefree and ruthless; you can't give him detention because that means you'd have to catch him first.
Tonight he scored the fastest goal he has ever scored, effectively ending a well-balanced Champions League tie in just over two minutes. It doesn't surprise us now. Nothing he does surprises us anymore. When he added another later on, nutmegging Thibaut Courtois for the second time having previously unscrewed his fountain pen so ink exploded all down his shirt, nobody blinked.
Oh, look, Messi is doing that thing he does again: destroying hopes, dreams, fears, worlds. It should be boring by now. It should be a non-event, this, watching him after all these years performing the same jinks and feints over and over like a buffering YouTube video.
Somehow it isn't. When greatness comes in this form, on a completely different plane to anyone else in the history of the sport, then it is impossible to resist, impossible not to completely succumb to, let alone ignore.
How could you not be enthralled? He's an alien that has crash-landed in the Andes, sent to reinvent the game of football and turn it into something else entirely. Choreographed slalom skiing on grass? Interpretative dance? It might as well be, the way he glides past players, an ocean of calm, whilst they look like they are trying to do algebra whilst running up a declining escalator that never ends.
There's a slow doubt, however, that's gradually starting to seep in from the corners of our television sets. It's in the back of our minds and all over our hearts too, every time he is left standing in front of the raucous Nou Camp crowd holding his arms aloft, as if the Christ the Redeemer statue had come to life and waded across the Atlantic.
How much longer have we got?
How much time is left to enjoy moments like this?
It's not about how good he is now, or how good Ronaldo is, how good Pele was, or how good anyone else could be. That's all irrelevant. Like Lebron James and Roger Federer he has become something more.
He is a sand-timer, turned, and gradually beginning to drain. His powers aren't diminishing; but the time we have left to watch them is.
Every moment from now until Lionel Messi decides to stop playing is his. I can't wait to share them all with him.