Resplendent in his blaugrana checkerboard shirt, Leo Messi was playing his own chess game against Mallorca on Saturday night, and it was checkmate before the visitors had even got going.
On a night when every Barca goal was jaw-dropping in its execution, the captain, who presented his sixth Ballon d’Or to a fawning Camp Nou before the game, still stood head and shoulders above every player on the pitch.
There’s every justification to think that on another night, the incredible finishes from Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann would’ve taken most of the plaudits.
However, Messi’s superlative hat-trick outdid his team-mates, and then some.
In the perennial Ronaldo v Messi debate, fans of the latter will rejoice knowing that the Argentinian is now ahead of the Portuguese in terms of the amount of hat-tricks scored in the Spanish top flight.
Perhaps of more importance is that, despite being goalless for the first seven weeks of the season, Messi now finds himself, by week 15, as the top scorer in La Liga with 12. That’s despite playing six games less than everyone else in the list in 2019/20.
Goals win games, win trophies, and Leo continues to do his bit. In fact, this attacking midfielder has now become the only player in La Liga history to score 10+ goals in 14 consecutive seasons.
Don’t forget his assists too, though Marc-Andre ter Stegen might be ribbing him as to the quality of his own, raking pass to put Griezmann in on goal.
Before the doom-mongers start eulogising on the fact that it was ‘only’ Mallorca, revert back to when it was ‘only’ Levante, or ‘only’ Leganes. Games against supposed inferior opposition are usually anything but easy.
[Whoscored] | Lionel Messi made 45 successful final third passes in Barcelona’s 5-2 win over Mallorca, a record in a LaLiga match this season. pic.twitter.com/2M8o0UeTF1— BarçaTimes Statistics (@BT_Stats) December 8, 2019
On this occasion, Messi’s brilliance made light work of the islanders, but don’t be fooled. Two goals conceded could’ve made things much tighter had the captain not been at his best.
As it was, we can, once again, marvel at Leo’s finishing. Every goal was of the highest quality, and I’d dare to suggest that there’s probably not been too many trebles better than that one.
With many of the usual starters surely rested for the trip to Milan, Ernesto Valverde should have the luxury of having most of his squad fit and available for two of the toughest matches of the campaign against Real Sociedad and Real Madrid.
The results in those two games, and Los Blancos’ visit to Valencia next Saturday, could have a huge bearing on the second half of the season.
With Leo in his pomp, however, Barca always have more than a puncher’s chance.