Ernesto Valverde has hailed Lionel Messi as 'extraordinary' after his two free kicks helped Barcelona secure a comfortable 4-0 win over local rivals Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium.
Following an even start to the game, the Argentine put his side in front just shy of the 20 minute mark in spectacular fashion, bending a free kick from around 30 yards out into the top corner leaving Diego Lopez with no chance of stopping it. Messi then turned provider after he put Ousmane Dembele through on goal who curled a magnificent effort into the top corner to double Barcelona's lead.
After hitting the post twice in quick succession, Luis Suarez then got in on the act finishing from a very tight angle to send the visitors into the half time break with a three-goal lead. If anyone thought Messi's first free kick was a fluke he certainly proved them wrong just after the hour mark, scoring from a similar distance from yet another free kick which flew into the top corner.
It was a true masterclass from the Argentine which helped secure a 4-0 win for his side, and speaking to Marca (via Yahoo Sport) after the game, Valverde admitted how fortunate he is to have Messi in his team. He said: “Messi is just extraordinary. The two goals, the chances created and what he gives us, he is extraordinary.
“What am I going to say about Leo? He can unlock any game, having him with us is infinite good fortune. We are in an unrepeatable time to see a football player like him.”
It proved to be an important win with Barcelona heading into the game level on points at the top of the table with both Atletico Madrid and Sevilla following results earlier in the day. The win means Barca now go three points clear as stand-alone leaders at the top of La Liga, however Valverde refused to read much into the current league standings.
He added: “It is still early and everything is very tight. The idea is for us to keep getting better and stronger in away games but we know how hard it is to beat anyone in this league.
“We knew about the danger of Espanyol, especially at home. A derby is always special. They are a team that, aside from the last game, had won all of their matches here. We wanted to dominate and little by little we managed to do that and I think the 3-0 [at half-time] reflected how the match went.”
Valverde's men will now turn their attention to Tuesday night when they face Tottenham in the Champions League, although the pressure will be off the Catalan giants having already secured their qualification into the knockout stages with a game to spare.