Its surprisingly frank and confident when he took the microphone in front of a full stadium in Barcelona’s last pre-season friendly to tell supporters: ‘We promise we will do everything possible to bring that beautiful (European) Cup back to the Camp Nou this season.’
Well this wasn’t a bad way to start making good on his promise.
He scored a hat-trick as Barcelona beat Mark van Bommel’s PSV 4-0. Ousmane Dembele got the other goal and the form of those two alongside Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho will send a collective shudder through the other Champions League pretenders. PSV were not bad. Barcelona were just too good.
There were 32 minutes gone when Messi stepped up to take a free-kick on the edge of the D. Dembele had gone on one of his mazy runs and had been upended in perfect Messi set-piece territory. Barcelona’s captain curled the ball over the wall and past Jeroen Zoet for 1-0. He continues to convert free-kicks as if they were penalties.
The goal gave Barcelona the half-time advantage their possession deserved. Not that Mark van Bommel’s PSV had been merely spectators.
Gaston Pereiro blasted one early effort over and when Hirving Lozano broke and released Steven Bergwijn his curled effort went just wide of Marc Andre ter Stegen’s far post.
That move started when Dembele dribbled into trouble. His runs with the ball are sometimes seemingly directionless and often past Messi and Luis Suarez who are in space and frustrated that the pass never comes.
He then crossed for Messi who shot over. There was a vital block from Samuel Umtiti at the other end to deny Luuk de Jong.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Coutinho (Lenglet 81), Messi, Luis Suarez, Dembele
Subs not used: Cillessen, Nelson Semedo, Arthur, Rafinha, Munir, Vidal
Goals: Messi (32, 77, 87), Dembele (75)
Sent Off: Umtiti
PSV Eindhoven: Zoet, Dumfries, Schwaab, Viergever (Isimat-Mirin 66), Tasende, Rosario (Gutierrez 82), Pereiro, Hendrix, Bergwijn (Malen 78), de Jong, Lozano
Subs not used: Room, Behich, Sainsbury, Ramselaar
Booked: Viergever, de Jong
Referee: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Greece).
PSV played like a team who have won all five of their league games so far this season scoring 21 goals and conceding only three. Barcelona needed to be at their best but with Messi and Coutinho linking up well they were and could have been further ahead at the break.
Coutinho could have doubled the lead nine minutes into the second half. Suarez muscled his way to the byline and drilled the ball across the penalty area.
It ran all the way to Coutinho who got underneath it and sent into the seats behind the goal. His next effort was better and would have found the far corner had the keeper not saved well.
It was getting lively now. Umtiti and De Jong were both booked and Van Bommel was spoken to for complaining. Suarez then went down on the end of a flailing arm from Viergever who had already been booked.
This time there was no card and no goal from Messi’s free-kick.