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As is often the case in El Clasico fixtures, Los Blancos tried to rough him up early on and just 20 minutes in he was caught by a flailing arm from Marcelo.
It left Messi on the turf, with blood spewing from his lip. He had to leave the pitch for treatment but of course it was only momentarily.
With a tissue in his bloody mouth, Messi equalised for the Blaugrana ten minutes after Casemiro had put the hosts ahead.
Ivan Rakitic put Barca in front but in the 85th minute James Rodriguez levelled for 10-man Los Blancos, who had Sergio Ramos sent off for hacking down Messi.
Zinedine Zidane's side thought they had claimed a valuable point that would keep them at the top of the table.
Messi had other ideas, though. In the dying embers, got on the end of a Jordi Alba cut-back and conjured up a sublime finish past Keylor Navas to make it 3-2 and silence the Santiago Bernabeu.
It was the perfect way for Messi to score his 500th goal. Real players had their head in their hands as Messi removed his shirt and held it aloft to the Madridstas in the stands.
Stoppage time.- Goal (@goal) April 23, 2020
Scores level at 2-2.
Messi stuns the Bernabeu.pic.twitter.com/DZe7pr6rwF
When his teammates had finished mobbing him the six-time Ballon d'Or winner stayed still and basked in the glory. Even if he got the meme treatment afterwards, it will remain one of the most iconic celebrations.
Although Barca moved to the top of the table with the win, Real would ultimately go on to win the title that year after an uber consistent winning run saw them lift the trophy on the final day.
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