THIS felt like a changing of the guard.
Lionel Messi, for so long the planet’s greatest player not only of his day but of all time, was completely upstaged by Kylian Mbappe.
Kylian Mbappe put in a world-class performance on Tuesday night, becoming the first player to score a European Nou Camp hat-trick since 1997Credit: AP:Associated Press
Lionel Messi was left in the Frenchman’s shadow at the Camp NouCredit: Getty Images – Getty
The electric Frenchman produced a complete performance marked by a breathtaking hat-trick.
And he now looks ready to claim Messi’s crown as the king of world football.
It certainly seemed like a changing of the guard at the top of world football.
Mbappe’s French compatriot and Barca star Antoine Griezmann said: “Kylian Mbappe had a great night.
“PSG has a great star for the future, who will be at the level of Leo Messi or Cristian Ronaldo.”
Mbappe became the first player to score a Champions League hat-trick at the Nou Camp since Andriy Shevchenko did it for Dynamo Kiev in 1997.
His first was a close-range blast after dancing round Clement Lenglet, his second a shot on the rebound and his third a sublime curling effort.
But his all-round display was Messi-esque in the way he tormented Barca – with pundit Owen Hargreaves likening the World Cup winner to the Brazilian Ronaldo.
Mbappe hailed Mauricio Pochettino for his influence since taking the reins at Paris Saint-Germain, who look a good bet to win the competition after finishing runners-up under Thomas Tuchel last term.
The superstar, 22, said: “The coach has done a great job since he joined. But he’s continued the work of Tuchel who started an extraordinary job, with the final.
“We’re starting to get better and better physically. We’re not yet in peak form, even if tonight was very good.
“We wanted to come here and win. We did that in style. Tonight was magnificent, but we haven’t won anything yet.”
Everton loanee Moise Kean also got in on the act in a display to send shockwaves around Europe.
It was the perfect pitch from Paris Saint-Germain ahead of their summer bid to lure Messi, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
The Argentine genius did score himself with an early penalty – but it will have been scant consolation as his side were hammered.
It left Barca’s hopes of a 14th consecutive year progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals looking all but over.
Messi had fired Barcelona into the lead in the last-16 first legCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Mbappe struck back with an amazing hat-trickCredit: Reuters
While Mauricio Pochettino’s Ligue 1 giants look a good bet to repeat last season’s journey to the final – and perhaps go one better.
This titanic battle saw Pochettino come up against a fellow former Southampton boss in Ronald Koeman, who succeeded the Argentine at St Mary’s in 2014.
Messi was quiet in the first-half yet still produced a stunning pass that led to the penalty he converted.
The 33-year-old lofted a beautiful ball over the top to Frenkie de Jong, who WAS clipped by Layvin Kurzawa even if at first the Dutchman looked to have tripped himself.
Messi venomously dispatched the spot-kick for his 20th of the season and 10th goal in his last ten matches.
But Pochettino’s side responded superbly and, after Ousmane Dembele had failed to finish Messi’s neat pass seconds after the opener, they hit back through Mbappe.
The leveller was a thing of beauty.
Former Arsenal target Kurzawa cut back a diagonal pass first time to Marco Verratti, who instantly lifted the ball through to Mbappe.
The most exciting player in European football showed some nifty footwork to waltz round boyhood PSG fan Clement Lenglet before blasting into the roof of the net.
Paris were unlucky not to go to the break ahead as Marc-Andre Ter Stegen saved brilliantly to deny efforts by Kurzawa and Kean, before Icardi headed Mbappe’s corner just wide.
Some players are made for the big stage.
Messi is the ultimate example of that but Mbappe appears to be cut from the same cloth.
The French star was relishing the contest, dancing round challenges and brushing opponents off at will.
He went close with a strike seconds into the second period with a curling 20-yard effort.
And just after the hour he netted his and PSG’s second, turning home after Alessandro Florenzi’s cut-back had deflected off Gerard Pique.
It was 3-1 shortly afterwards as Kean continued his amazing turnaround with Paris by heading home Leandro Paredes’ free-kick.
Messi may be staring at his final Champions League game with Barcelona in next month’s second legCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Ronald Koeman may have to hope for a fresh ‘remontada’ to save his jobCredit: Reuters
Kean’s strike was his 13th of the season for his loan club – compared to a paltry two in 33 appearances for the Toffees.
Mbappe settled things once and for all with five minutes to go, ending a swift counter with a sublime finish into the top corner.
It was his 40th goal involvement in 41 Champions League games as he well and truly picked up the baton from Messi.
The master has been eclipsed by the apprentice.
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