Barcelona Boss Ernesto Valverde Hails 'Extraordinary' Messi Hat-Trick in 5-0 Espanyol Demolition
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde was left in awe of star-man Lionel Messi on Saturday evening following his side's 5-0 win over local rivals Espanyol in the Derbi Barceloni.
The 30-year-old attacking maestro was once again the key player in a Catalonian giants' dominant performance, netting a well-taken, but slightly fortunate, hat-trick - with two in the first 45 minutes and one in the second.
There were questions left over the linesman's decision to allow the Argentina international's opener, after it was clear the attacker was in an offside position when receiving Ivan Rakitic's through ball, before displaying the outrageous intricate trickery we have all come to expect from one of the world's best and firing Barca into the lead.
Messi then doubled Barcelona's tally before the break after an unfortunate deflection on Papa Bouba Diop's part landed into the path of Jordi Alba who squared a simple ball across the face of goal for the no 10's second.
The Argentine wizard was on hand to round off his hat-trick just after the hour mark and was followed by Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez - who both added insult to an otherwise resilient performance from Espanyol late on.
However, Messi, as is so often the case, once again took the headlines, and his boss was all too happy to shower the future hall of famer with praise following his "extraordinary" performance.
"I am happy for Leo who scored three goals and is extraordinary", Valverde told the post-match press conference, as reported by Sky Sports.
"We pulled through a complicated game, because these kinds of matches are always tough.
"Despite the result, it wasn't easy. Espanyol fought very well, but we have great players like Messi, who scored three goals, and Suarez, who gave everything like the rest of the team."
The result continues Barcelona's 100% winning record, of which there are now only two teams in La Liga to boast such an achievement, and lifts the Catalonians four points above title holders Real Madrid, who were held to their second draw of the campaign earlier in the day.
However, Valverde is not losing sight on the fact there is still a long way to go in this year's competition, but believes his side have started in the right manner.
"We are at the beginning of the season and the distances are not significant, but it is better to be ahead than behind", the 53-year-old said.
"It does not mean anything, but being ahead is always good."
The Spanish manager resisted the temptation to throw new signing Ousmane Dembele into the starting XI following the Frenchman's big-money move to the Camp Nou from German side Borussia Dortmund during the summer.
However, the 20-year-old, who reportedly set Barca back over €100m, quickly bedded into his new surroundings after replacing Gerard Deulofeu and provided Suarez with the simplest of tap-ins in the dying moments of the game after a superb first-time assist.
"The idea is to give Dembele minutes, we have a lot of hopes for him and this game was a first step", Valverde concluded.
"His team-mates know that he has real quality."
Barca will now prepare for their opening fixture of their 2017/18 Champions League campaign on Tuesday night, when last year's finalists - and the side who overcame the Catalonians last time around - Juventus visit the holy footballing amphitheatre for what will certainly be another clash to behold.