The free-kick king passed another milestone at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night – Lionel Messi now has 50 career set-piece specials to his name.
He got two goals and two assists in this big win. He’s making up for lost time after missing the start of the season and Barcelona are back on top of La Liga. Messi had already worked his magic as Barcelona beat Valladolid comfortably. His sublime pass through for Arturo Vidal created the home side’s second goal – Vidal just had to hang out a leg to finish Messi’s golden assist.
But then came his chance to score himself just before half-time. He sent the ball past former Barça B goalkeeper Jordi Masip with a shot into the top corner. Messi now has 20 free-kick goals in the last five seasons.
That tally is five more than Juventus, Roma, Paris Saint Germain and Lyon have netted (15, 13, 13 and 12 respectively) as clubs. Forty four of his half-century of free-kicks have come in a Barcelona shirt; six have come for Argentina.
Clement Lenglet scored the first for Barcelona on two minutes when Valladolid failed to clear a Messi corner.
Kiko Olivas stunned the Camp Nou on 15 minutes when he scored after Marc-Andre ter Stegen could only palm out Oscar Plano’s shot.
But Vidal restored Barcelona’s advantage on 29 minutes when he ran onto to that brilliant Messi pass. Once Messi got the third it was game over. Two days short of his 17th birthday Ansu Fati started the match but sent his best chance into the dive of Masip.
He was applauded off when replaced by Antoine Griezmann on the hour. Luis Suarez scored but the goal was ruled out for offside. It didn’t matter because Messi popped up for the fourth goal.
And it wasn’t long before he was serving up Suarez with another chance that this time he greedily accepted from an onside position. First came Messi’s goal.
Ivan Rakitic was on as a second-half substitute. He played the ball forward to Messi who took it on his thigh on the turn and then swept it past Masip.
Suarez had never scored against Valladolid but Messi put that right with a pass through to the Uruguayan. The telepathy that has worked time and again over the last five years did the trick again.
Suarez has now scored against every La Liga team he has ever faced. With Messi and Suarez moving up through the gears it’s little wonder they have returned to the summit.