Lionel Messi's superb reaction to giving the ball away during Espanyol 0-4 Barcelona

Leo Messi

Ernesto Valverde rested virtually all his big names in Barcelona's midweek Copa del Rey win over Cultral Leonesa but the stars were back in action on Saturday night.

The Catalan giants continue to top La Liga following a 4-0 win at neighbours Espanyol, thanks in large part to a first-half masterclass from their front three.

It's been a tough week for Lionel Messi, who not only had to see the Ballon d'Or voting rank him as the world's fifth best player but also endured harsh criticism from the legendary Pele.

However, the Barcelona captain always does his talking on the pitch and it was no different in the Derbi Barceloni as he scored two wonderful free-kicks.

Messi also produced a quite sublime assist for the improving Ousmane Dembele but there was a moment outside of his attacking involvement which sums up his all-round game.

Messi puts Ballon d'Or vote to shame

Some eyebrows were raised when Real Madrid's Luka Modric won the 2018 Ballon d'Or, but arguably the biggest talking point was the final position of Messi.

Messi and Luka Modric clash at the 2018 World Cup

The Argentine finished in fifth place behind the Croatian, Cristiano Ronaldo and the French World Cup-winning duo of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

In the 2018-19 campaign alone, Messi has already registered a ridiculous 17 goals and nine assists in just 16 matches across all competitions.

That said, football purists regard the 31-year-old as much more than just a goalscorer and that was evident yet again against Espanyol just before half-time.

Messi on the ball during Espanyol 0-4 Barcelona

Messi's reaction to losing the ball v Espanyol

In the 44th-minute, Messi drove forwards with the ball and tried to combine with Luis Suarez after holding off a defender, but his pass was intercepted.

Having contributed to both goals at that stage, the little magician could've been forgiven for taking a breather so close to the interval, yet he did nothing of the sort.

Instead, he tracked the play back into his own half, showing desire, work-rate and a superb change of pace to dispossess Espanyol's Hernan Perez.

Check out the video below:

If that wasn't enough, Messi completed the action by calmly finding Marc-Andre ter Stegen with his right foot - somewhat ironic given Pele's claims he's too reliant on his left.

Is it any surprise that, in his first match since the Ballon d'Or ceremony, Messi left many football fans in no doubt as to who is the true best footballer in the world?

Messi celebrates one of his goals against Espanyol

Next up for him and Barca is the visit of Premier League side Tottenham in the Champions League before travelling to Levante in the league on Sunday.

What are YOUR thoughts on Messi's reaction to losing possession at Espanyol? Do YOU think he is the best player in world football? Have YOUR say in the comments box below!

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