Barcelona needed a game like San Mames according to Marca. The Catalans needed a game that could give them victory but in a robust manner that inspired hope, after a season that’s done so much to take it away. The driving force behind their victory at Athletic Club was, unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi.
The Argentine was superb in the Basque Country, serving as leader when things wobbled after Inaki Williams‘ opener. He took control of the game and proved decisive with his goals and passing, providing a pre-assist for Pedri’s opener before scoring the next two as the Blaugrana won 3-2.
Aside from his excellent play, Messi seemed to exhibit a real joy in what he was doing, full of smiles and enthusiasm, especially when Pedri teed him up for his first of the evening with a deliciously insolent backheel.
With his brace, Messi is now right back in the race for the Pichichi, but his happiness doesn’t seem to stem from solely goals and records. The Argentine has built relationships with the other players in the squad, none more so, of course, than Pedri, but also Frenkie de Jong.
Barcelona are now third, and have restored some of their supporters’ morale and zest. Ronald Koeman‘s men are still some way off leaders Atletico Madrid, but Los Rojiblancos’ Copa del Rey exit to Segunda B side Cornella has exposed their fallibility. Granada, next up for Barcelona, will tell a lot.