Amid all the magical euphoria of those Houdini escapes by Liverpool and Spurs from nightmare three-goal deficits to their dream Champions League Final, one vital nugget of reality was lost.
The days leading up to those mystical nights were filled with adoration for Lionel Messi.
So gushing were the tributes that some went so far as to acclaim him as the greatest footballer of all time.
Lionel Messi is capable of such glorious moments but they do not merit his annunciation
Come Anfield and yet another mind-blowing European experience in that seething cauldron, the GOAT accolade looked more than a mite premature and not a little exaggerated.
Messi most certainly did not look greater than Pele, Maradona, Garrincha, Di Stefano or Cruyff, to name but one handful of the most wondrous talents ever to grace the beautiful game. Not even close.
Nor had he six nights earlier, to be truthful. Yes, he scored two of the goals which gave Barcelona a three-goal first leg lead over Liverpool, including that majestic free kick, but they came late in a game he spent mostly on the periphery.
Messi is capable of such glorious moments but breath-taking as they are to behold they do not merit his annunciation.
The Argentine failed to inspire when Liverpool dismantled Barcelona at Anfield on Tuesday
Especially, they do not justify the spiteful comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo which always seem to accompany those hymns of praise from the most slavish of his disciples.
To admire the brilliance of Messi does not require demeaning the other exceptional talent of this era. Not when he and Ronaldo are a magnificence of opposites.
Messi is the artist, football’s Leo Da Vinci painting his intricate masterpieces on the grass which is his canvas. Ronaldo is the warlord, Spartacus leading from the front with muscular power, fearless speed and deadly accuracy.
To each his time, according to the state of the game. A time for Messi to weave his grand designs. A time for Ronaldo to storm the most forbidding ramparts.
There are times when the virtues of one or the other can be out of place and Tuesday in Liverpool was one of them.
Messi’s moments of magic do not justify the spiteful comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo (left)
It does not require a huge leap of the mind to imagine that had Ronaldo been playing for Barcelona they would not have been knocked out. Not only is he an outstanding player but one most likely to score under duress, as well as rally his troops by example.
Messi wilted into anonymity, swept away like his team-mates by the searing intensity of Klopp-ball and the raw emotions flooding down from the Kop.
Yet while this was not a night for his star to shine, it is inconceivable that Ronaldo would have been complicit in so meek a surrendering of such a substantial lead.
Not for the first time, Messi fell somewhat short on the biggest of occasions and his failures on the greatest stage of all mitigate against his deification.
The World Cup which seemed to be his destiny has proved beyond his reach, leaving him lower in the pantheon than Maradona who won it for their country single-handedly. And I am not referring to the Hand of God.
He’s left lower in the pantheon than Diego Maradona who won the World Cup single-handedly
Such severe judgement does not apply to Ronaldo, since he was not born into a football power-house such as Argentina. Neither has he ever faltered in the striving which has helped Portugal over-achieve in major championships.
The most ardent Messi loyalists were at haste to point out that in the first match against Liverpool he notched his 600th goal for Barcelona. They neglected to mention that Ronaldo passed that career milestone a couple of weeks earlier.
Splendid achievements, both, but when it comes to GOAT-ness Pele scored more than a thousand first-class goals – and won three World Cups with Brazil.
Ronaldo’s strutting narcissism may not be to everyone’s taste but while he wears his arrogance on his sleeve, it is a mistake to assume Messi is without a parallel ego.
He carries his more discreetly but it reveals itself under pressure, as it did when he rounded on critical Barca fans at the airport on the trek home from their debacle the other evening. If he expected to be cheered, then he really has been surrounded by too many sycophants.
For lovers of football, which has been as good it gets lately, it is enough to sit back and thrill to Messi and Ronaldo in their vividly contrasting elements.
Although if you had to choose one of them to score a goal for your life, I know who I would select. He who has just claimed a League Champion’s medal in a third country by firing a Juventus team weaker than Barcelona to the Italian title.
Had Ronaldo been playing for Barcelona on Tuesday, they would not have been knocked out
This week of amazing comebacks has also been the tale of two managers.
Liverpool’s feat against Barcelona has given rise to the comparing of Jurgen Klopp with the immortal Bill Shankly.
Apart from prizes for being likeable, animated and entertaining, Klopp hasn’t won a thing yet. Although he has two chances left to make good on his promise of delivering trophies within four years of taking charge at Anfield.
Since Manchester City are unlikely to falter at Brighton on the last day of this Premier League season, the Champions League final has to be his best bet.
This week of comebacks has also been the tale of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino (right)
If he pulls it off, he will put Mauricio Pochettino on the spot.
When the Spurs boss hints at moving on if they win in Madrid on June 1 he appears to be manoeuvring himself into position to become Manchester United’s next manager, should the Old Trafford board decide they acted in too much haste when making Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment permanent.
But if Spurs lose to Liverpool on the night two English tribes invade the Spanish capital, Pochettino will not be able to excuse himself as having achieved the best that is possible for him at Tottenham.