Lionel Messi rounded off an incredible decade at the Camp Nou by scoring his 50th goal of 2019 in Barcelona’s 4-1 win over Alaves.
Messi has reached the half century in each of the years of the last decade bar one. In 2013 he ‘only’ scored 45 goals.
It was not his best performance but he wandered infield to send a long range curling left foot shot from the edge of the area past Fernando Pacheco to help Barcelona beat Alaves.
The goal came at the perfect time because the Basque side had just started to creep back into the game at 2-1.
That made the score 3-1 and meant Barcelona took the three points to extend their lead over Athletic Bilbao who play on Sunday.
‘This is what happen,’ said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. ‘We have all seen it before. It is an enormous advantage that in any given moment Leo can just appear and score a goal from any position.’
Messi also looks set to win the Golden Boot now. He has 34 goals and only Leicester’s Jamie Vardy has any chance of overtaking him.
With Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann also on the scoresheet Barcelona’s front three have now scored 30 league goals so far this season in the league. That is more than every other team apart from Villarreal and Real Madrid.
Suarez netted a penalty with 15 minutes left. ‘We have had an intense month,’ added Valverde. ‘We wanted to be in good physical condition going into break and we are lucky that we have so many options in midfield.’
Valverde changed his entire midfield after the Clasico. Frenkie De Jong and Ivan Rakitic were relegated to the bench with Sergio Roberto dropping back to full-back.
In came Vidal, Carles Alena and Sergio Busquets. Vidal’s performance in particular will have alerted clubs interested in trying to sign him this January.
Before the game kicked-off Barcelona honoured the players who ten years ago completed an extraordinary six-out-of-six trophy haul in Pep Guardiola’s first season.
Seydou Keita and Carles Puyol were among the players who took the applause in the centre of the pitch. Guardiola sent a message that he will only be able to enjoy the achievement when he retires.
The current squad struggle to match up to the high standards of that group. But they still have Messi.
He took his place in that pre-match photograph and then played his part in another win for Barcelona.
They extended their lead at the top of the table to three points and although Real Madrid can move back level on points with a win over Athletic they will not knock Barcelona off top spot this year unless they overturn a five-goal advantage between the two teams.
Barcelona might have been dominated by Real Madrid in the Clasico last week but with Messi still scoring at a rate of 50 goals per calendar year, they remain on top.