The conclusion was unanimous. After Barcelona beat Napoli, all the analysis was the same: Barça were Lionel Messi and little more. The ambition, leadership and talent was brought by the Argentine. The rest of the team, with some exceptions, was limited to surviving.
For that reason, more than ever, the figure of Messi appeared on the horizon as Barça's big hope in an atypical Champions League.
The rivals waiting around the corner are to be feared (first Bayern Munich and then a possible semifinal against Manchester City or Lyon) and the feeling around Barcelona is that everything depends on Messi in Lisbon. And he's not lacking in desire, as he showed against Napoli.
He scored a goal that was the fruit of perseverance, falling to the ground, where others would have given up, and getting back up before scoring with an impossible finish. He scored another, too, but it was ruled out by VAR. And he won the penalty that Luis Suarez converted.
His teammates in attack (Suarez and Antoine Griezmann) were not especially good against Napoli. In defence, the team had to suffer more than they should. In midfield, Sergi Roberto worked hard and Frenkie de Jong was good, but they missed the suspended Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal.
Without Messi, Barça risk being undone. With Messi, they can aspire to win everything, even if Bayern, chasing a treble, could be the favourites for the competition.
Messi has played 11 quarterfinals, all of them over two legs previously. He's won seven and lost four. The last was the most painful, in Roma, although losses to Atletico (twice) and Juventus also hurt.
In his first four seasons in the Champions League (2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08), Messi didn't feature in the last eight. In the first season he wasn't consolidated in the side, in the second he was injured after an exhibition against Chelsea, in the third there was defeat to Liverpool in the last 16 and in the fourth he was injured against Schalke.
It was 2008-09 when he played his first quarterfinal, against Bayern at Camp Nou. Barça won 4-0, Messi scored two and they went on to win the competition.
Since then, Messi's been a regular in the last eight. It was a quarterfinal against Arsenal when he scored four in one game at Camp Nou in 2010. He was also key in several other games.
Barça will need that Messi in Lisbon: hungry, competitive and decisive. Goalscorer, leader and more plugged in that ever. Bayern are good, but no one is better than an inspired Messi.