Everyone who watched Real Betis 1-4 Barcelona was left speechless by yet another virtuoso display from five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
The 31-year-old produced a free-kick, a clinical breakaway finish and an exceptional late lob to complete a hat-trick and fire his side ten points clear at the top of La Liga.
Messi has now scored a crazy 39 goals and provided 18 assists in 37 matches so far this term and is undoubtedly on a different level to all other players in the world.
Ahead of the win at the Benito Villamarin, many Blaugrana supporters weren’t happy when they saw Ernesto Valverde had selected four central midfielders in his starting XI.
However, Messi has defended his manager, heaping praise onto him in the process, and his comments suggest the Barca boss should be held in higher regard.
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Betis beat Barca in November
Back in November, Messi bagged a brace and Arturo Vidal also scored but the Spanish champions actually fell to a 4-3 defeat to Betis at the Nou Camp.
In the rare home loss, Messi joined Luis Suarez and Malcom in a front three, while Ivan Rakitic was sent off with the score at 3-3, with Betis’ winner coming two minutes later.
Valverde’s tactical change after Betis loss
Wary of Betis’ threats on Sunday evening, Valverde played all four of Sergio Busquets, Vidal, Arthur and Rakitic, and the decision greatly helped Barca keep control of the game.
Leo Messi, along with Suarez, was devastating in attack, and the Barcelona captain praised Valverde’s tactical ability in his post-match interview.
Messi heaps praise on Valverde after Betis win
“(Real) Betis are a side that treat the ball well. But we didn’t suffer at all,” said Messi, who will return to Argentina duty in the upcoming international break, via Sport.
“We were really well organised. (Ernesto) Valverde read things well and prepared the game plan well. Tactically it was perfect. Sometimes you have to adapt to the opposition.”
The superstar added: “There are moments and games when that is the case. You have to be prepared for everything. We couldn’t slip up today.”
Does Valverde deserve more credit?
There’s been talk about Valverde’s long-term future at the Nou Camp at various times this season, but surely the ex-Athletic Bilbao coach deserves more respect.
The 55-year-old’s first campaign in charge (last season) saw Barca win La Liga and the Copa del Rey, and they added the Supercopa de Espana to their cabinet in August.
In 2018-19, Valverde’s men have a double-digit points advantage in the league, face Manchester United for a Champions League semi-final spot and have reached the Copa del Rey final.
Do YOU agree with Messi’s praise of Valverde after Betis 1-4 Barca? Do YOU think he deserves more credit? Have YOUR say in the comments box below!