Lionel Messi is famous for his lack of egotism, but even he must have been bemused to see himself fifth in the voting for the 2018 Ballon d’Or award earlier this week.
The Barcelona superstar, who has won the prestigious individual accolade more times than any other footballer in history with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo, picked up fewer votes than this year’s winner Luka Modric, Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
This was the first time since 2006 that Messi, who helped Barça win La Liga and the Copa del Rey last season, had finished outside the Ballon d’Or top three.
However, the Argentina international made a mockery of his 2018 Ballon d’Or ranking against Espanyol on Saturday night.
Messi put Barça’s neighbours to the sword with a majestic individual performance, inspiring his side to an emphatic 4-0 victory.
Journalist Andy Mitten, who has seen Messi play live more than most throughout the South American’s illustrious career, tweeted after the opening 45 minutes: “I can’t recall a better half by Messi. Bewilderingly good.”
Messi was playing like a man with a point to prove - and his remarkable level of performance didn’t drop after the half-time interval.
Having scored a magnificent free-kick and assisted Ousmane Dembele’s goal in the first half, Messi went on to score another stunning free-kick past Diego Lopez in the second half.
But aside from his involvement in the goals, Messi’s overall performance was exceptional.
This was a true 10/10 display from the player many football fans regard as the greatest ever.
Treat yourself by watching his full individual highlights from the match here…
The fifth best player in the world? You must be joking.
Messi’s stats from the game were just as impressive as his highlights.
Per Squawka, Messi had 77 touches, five shots, created a further five chances, completed eight take-ons and made 44 passes.
He even chipped in with an excellent tackle after losing possession shortly before half-time.
It was the complete performance.
And check out that remarkable heatmap in the bottom left-hand corner...
He was absolutely everywhere on the pitch.
Messi may feel it’s finally time for him to win another Ballon d’Or following this week’s latest setback.
Although he’s always maintained that individual awards mean little to him, there’s no doubt that his personal pride will have been slightly dented after seeing himself fifth on the latest list.
He knows he’s much better than that - and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he ensures that 2019 is the year he wins his sixth Ballon d’Or.