ilence. If anyone ever doubted the hold that football has over people, its ability to take us in its grip and eclipse all else; if anyone doubted the significance, the transcendence of Leo Messi, they need only witness the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
How fine the line is. So near, so far. It was the 84th minute, and Messi was on 84 goals when he was sent through. Artur came to meet him, and Messi stepped to the Benfica goalkeeper's left. He was about to score his 85th goal of 2012, equaling Gerd Muller's record for goals in a calendar year.
Yet another record: gone.
A moment later, Messi was on the ground. Soon, he was being carried off on a stretcher, arms folded across his chest and hardly moving. He hadn't scored. Maybe he wouldn't equal the record. Not tonight, not ever. As Messi went past Artur, they had clashed. The ball spun away, Messi reached it and curled it unconvincingly goalward, before falling to the ground. When he hit the turf, hearts hit throats. When he didn't get up, they, too, were paralyzed.