If you happened to be one of the supporters in the RCDE Stadium on Saturday night, you would’ve had the privilege to witness one of the great Lionel Messi performances live.

Espanyol never stood a chance with the best player in the world in that mood.

Ah yes, the world’s best.

France Football would have you believe that the Argentinian is only the fifth best on the planet.

Perhaps in 2018 more than any other year, the Ballon d’Or ‘ranking’ has been tarnished. Probably for good in fact.

Any organisation that doesn’t have Messi in their top three at the very least, can no longer claim to be a credible voice in world football.

If nothing else, a root and branch review of the way voting is carried out should be undertaken.

It was bad enough a few years ago when voting was reopened to allow Cristiano Ronaldo to get the requisite numbers for the gong, his performance for Portugal against Sweden taking him past Messi, who was the clear winner when voting had officially closed first time around.

France Football recovered from that farce, but they’re unlikely to again.

One doesn’t even need to re-list the areas in which Barca’s No.10 was the best during 2018. Everyone who follows the sport knows.

Unless your name happens to be Pele.

O Rei embarrassed himself with his comments over the past week, but it gave Messi some extra motivation for the Catalan derby.

His two exquisite free-kicks were amongst the best he’s ever scored, and the way in which he kept control of the ball and then released Dembele for Barca’s second was vintage Messi.

For someone who can’t head a ball either – according to the Brazilian – he came mighty close to a towering headed goal in a first half that had La Pulga’s name writ large all over it.

As important as his attacking prowess though was his 50-metre run to win back the ball after he’d lost it. It’s that tenacious and voracious side of his game that truly sets him apart.

Let’s face it, when did you ever see Pele get involved in the defensive aspects of the game?

Espanyol came into Saturday’s match in arguably the best shape they’ve been in for a derby in a while.

Just a few short weeks ago, they could’ve gone top of the La Liga table themselves, and even though they’d very slightly tailed off from that form, one loss at home filled the locals with optimism.

Messi crushed that… and the notion that he’s anything but the finest footballer to have ever laced up a pair of boots and played the beautiful game.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion