Messi set foot in the semifinals with a triumph for history

It is possible that people have first noticed the scars of Messi’s battle: the slightly swollen nose, or the faint trace of a bruise, that blooms around his left eye. Or he could have realized that the rest of the characteristics of the Argentine were much more worrying: Messi’s forehead was puckered. His face frowned. His offense was one scuffed pass, a deflating climax to a wonderful, flowing move down Barcelona’s right flank. A better ball, a little more composure, and Messi would have had a glorious chance to double his team’s 1-0 lead, not necessarily enough to settle this Champions League quarterfinal, to doom Manchester United, but a significant tilting of the balance ahead of next week’s second leg in Barcelona at the Camp Nou. By that stage, though, Messi was in no moo...

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