Lionel Messi was in majestic form once again on Saturday night, inspiring his Barcelona side to an emphatic 5-0 victory over neighbours Espanyol in the Catalan derby.
The Argentina international scored the first three goals of the night - two before half-time and one after - while late strikes from Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez added gloss to the scoreline.
It was Messi, however, who lit up the Camp Nou with a flawless performance.
The 30-year-old completed 53 passes, seven take-ons, had eight shots at goal and created four goalscoring opportunities for his teammates.
Barça really must ensure that Messi signs his contract extension swiftly because they’d be nothing without him at the moment.
Valverde hails Messi after Espanyol performance
"I am happy for Leo who scored three goals and is extraordinary," Ernesto Valverde, who replaced Luis Enrique as Barça’s head coach this summer, was quoted as saying by Sky Sports in his post-match press conference.
"We pulled through a complicated game, because these kinds of matches are always tough.
"Despite the result, it wasn't easy. Espanyol fought very well, but we have great players like Messi, who scored three goals, and Suarez, who gave everything like the rest of the team."
Video: Messi's highlights v Espanyol
You can watch Messi’s hat-trick - plus his overall individual highlights - here…
Lineker's tweet involving Messi and Neymar goes viral
Gary Lineker has made no secret of his admiration for Messi over the years and the former Barcelona striker sent out a brilliant tweet following the Argentine’s 38th hat-trick for the Catalan giants.
“Messi seems to be struggling a tad without Neymar,” the Match of the Day host joked. “3 games 5 goals and a hat-trick tonight.”
Lineker’s tweet has almost 8,000 retweets and close to 20,000 ‘likes’, suggesting other people agree that all Barcelona really need to be successful is Messi.
Barça are coping just fine without Neymar
Neymar has enjoyed an excellent start to life in Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain, but Messi’s performances have led to a perfect start to the 2017-18 campaign for Barça without the Brazilian superstar.
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