Messi delivered when Barcelona needed him the most, coming back off a convincing loss to Manchester City against another contender in Spain, Sevilla.
There’s nothing new in Lionel Messi being the main man for Barcelona, but at a time when the club faces question marks about no longer controlling games, his role in a come-from-behind 2-1 win at Sevilla was particularly decisive.
Sevilla, which has threatened to become a challenger this season, went ahead through Vitolo early in the first half and seemed to take Barcelona by surprise with its intensity. At some stages in the first period, Messi dropped back to take the ball from his own center-halves, trying to start the moves like Xavi used to do in his heyday. But this was no Wayne Rooney-esque conversion into midfield. Messi started the move inside his own half which led to the equalizer, running onto a pass to side-foot home from the edge of the area.
He played further forward in the second period, creating (and missing) three chances himself, but it meant that Barcelona was able to play on the front foot. And so it proved, when Messi’s sensational run down the middle beat two men and he timed his pass to Luis Suarez, who beat the excellent Sergio Rico, to perfection. On this form, Messi is unstoppable. He dictated the play from all over the pitch and allowed Barcelona, which was coming off a humbling Champions League loss at Manchester City, to overcome some poor decision making from Neymar, who could have killed off the game had he chosen to pass to Suarez instead of missing on a one-on-one situation.
Barcelona is still two points off Real Madrid, which beat Leganes 3-0 thanks to another two goals from in-form Gareth Bale. The big news from the Bernabeu is that Cristiano Ronaldo has signed a new deal–confirmed Monday in Madrid–to run for another five years. It seems a long time for a player whose decline may already have begun: but an interesting sign in the hierarchical shift in the side is that Ronaldo celebrated Bale’s second goal with him. We didn't see too much of that when Bale first joined the club.