Barcelona kicked off the La Liga season with a phenomenal victory over Real Betis, winning 6-2 in convincing, dominant fashion. The Blaugrana were superior from start to finish, and played beautiful football on their way to an exciting triumph. Here's a few takeaways from a sublime performance.
1 - Lionel Messi's slow transformation is fascinating
For more than a decade, we've grown accustomed to a devastating Messi, capable of running past anyone and scoring unbelievable goals week after week. His monster seasons under Pep Guardiola showed why he was the best goalscorer on Earth, and he continued to break scoring records over the past few seasons. But ever since Luis Enrique arrived (and he and Messi stopped fighting), Leo has slowly transformed into a different player. We don't see the same runs through the defense all the time, and the Messi that was faster than anybody else with a ball at his feet has slowly been replaced by a more cerebral Messi, who thinks the game and looks to involve the people around him a lot more.
Saturday was a perfect example. Messi was once again a midfielder, looking to set up teammates before thinking about scoring himself. Thanks to a great game by Sergi Roberto, he barely spent any time on the right wing, rather focusing on being involved in the buildup through the middle, passing a lot more than usual and picking up all sorts of runs from Alba, Roberto, Denis, Rakitic, Arda, Suárez. Everyone, really. But here's why Messi is so special: even amid all of this unselfish passing against Betis, he scored two goals without even trying too hard. He's just that damn good.
2 - Arda Turan is actually good at football
Ever since Lucho admitted he was wrong about Arda and let the player be where he's the most likely to play well, Turan has been fantastic. His 90 minutes against Betis were amazing. Even with Messi having a monumental performance and Suárez scoring three goals, Arda found a way to shine, serving as a perfect complement to the two superstars. He scored another goal, which is great for his confidence, and he was great playing a position he actually feels comfortable with. Neymar better watch out when he comes back. Left Wing Leonidas is the real deal.
3 - Samuel Umtiti is amazing
I wish I was good enough to write 300 words on what Sammy did on Saturday, but I'm not that bright. So here's my recap of Umtiti's performance against Betis.
Sammy Umtiti is a fucking monster.— Renato Gonçalves (@renatodsg) August 20, 2016
Excuse my language.