Barcelona produced another scintillating display of football to outclass Celta de Vigo 6-1 with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic all on the score sheet. Later in midweek, Barca breezed past Sporting Gijon 1-3 thereby extending their unbeaten streak to 31 games and Messi also scored his 300th and 301st goal in La Liga. While not brilliant, their 1-2 win in Las Palmas added another valuable three points in the Catalans' tally.
The game against Celta was in the centre of a storm due to the "Johan Cruyff" penalty Messi and Suarez combined to convert. After Messi scored a brilliant free kick out from 25 yards, Celta soon equalized and the match ended 1-1 at the halftime. With things looking even at the break, Barca was in dire need of some kind of inspirational performance. Nobody knows what the manager told the team during the break, but right after halftime came a team out for revenge. Keeping in mind the 4-1 loss earlier in the season, Barca bombarded the Celta half with attack after attack and plundered goals at will to register a massive 6-1 scoreline.
However, in the 81st minute, Messi and Suarez did what Robert Pires and Thierry Henry could not and scored a beautifully executed penalty. After an outrageous piece of skill, Messi was fouled just inside the box and the referee rightly pointed to the spot. But to everybody's shock Messi passed the ball which Suarez then drilled into the net past goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez.
The Camp Nou crowd erupted and so did fans around the world.
Perhaps astonishing was the fact that Messi could have scored his 300th goal in La Liga had he scored it. Instead he selflessly laid it off for Suarez who completed his hattrick. Indeed this has become quite routine in the Barca camp. Helping each other out at all times has been the Barca philosophy. And with the incredible friendship and understanding Messi, Suarez and Neymar have built up over the course of one and a half seasons have made them more than just team mates. And their actions on the pitch portray the picture quite well.
Last season, when Messi was going through a goal drought, Suarez did something incredible.
He rounded up the Granada goalkeeper and passed the ball to Messi instead of poking it into the empty net. Messi scored the goal and the first signs of the deadly MSN trio’s unselfishness were on display. Later in the season, Messi let Neymar take penalties on a couple of occasions even when the stakes were higher than ever at the Champions League.
Sections of the Madrid-based press claimed Messi's penalty was disrespectful towards the opposition. Roberto Carlos and Cristiano Ronaldo had a few things to say about the incident and made their displeasure clear. So, was the incident a moment of magic from the best player on the planet or just regrettable arrogance?
In my opinion, there was nothing petulant about it nor was it illegal in any way. Johan Cruyff and Jesper Olsen played a one-two and scored in similar conditions in 1982. It was then hailed as a work of art by one and all. So why all the fuss now?
Cruyff was recently diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. He recently stated that all was going well and he was winning 2-0 in his agonising battle. Since Cruyff is one of the biggest Barcelona legends, both as a player and manager, Messi and co. perhaps thought of giving him a tribute on behalf of all football fans. Messi, Neymar and Suarez planned it out and brilliantly executed it, so what's not to like?
As always, a section of the media especially from the Spanish Capital comes out all guns blazing on the Argentine. He was targeted for his tax evasion case which hasn't been proved till now. He was targeted for failing to lift the World Cup and Copa America. He was also blamed for the debacle of finishing trophyless in the 2013-14 season. Perhaps, with no other off-the-field issues due to his low-key demeanour, the press have resorted to ridiculing him for some petty on-the-field issues.
Another allegation that has been levelled on Messi this season is that he is trying his best to help dethrone Ronaldo as the top scorer and so he passed the ball so that Suarez could score his hattrick and extend his lead in the race for the Pichichi. This is in itself a ridiculous argument and must be laughed at. After all, why should the best player in the world miss a penalty so that his team mate could score? Believe it or not, Messi as obsessed with Ronaldo as the Portuguese may love to think.
As a winner of the golden boot thrice, Messi has nothing left to prove to his detractors. The No.10 has always stated he shares no enmity with his peer from Madrid and has only praises for him. He also has stressed on quite a number of occasions as how he isn't much distracted by individual awards and team trophies are what drives him to be the best. For someone who would not hesitate to give away his five Ballon d'Or trophies for a single FIFA World Cup crown for his country, he is the hallmark of selflessness and team play.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez are all in the Top 5 list of top scorers and assisters in the Liga. The team has a huge six point advantage on second placed Atletico Madrid, currently nine after the team's win in Las Palmas. A repeat of last season's heroics seems well on the cards. With performances like these, there is hardly a team in the world which can stop the Barca juggernaut. And as long as the team keeps on winning, there will be jealous opponents and detractors willing to gatecrash the party.
The current Barca squad lays stress on playing beautiful football and entertaining fans. For players to do it on a regular basis, they need to be on good terms on and off the pitch. They need to develop the understanding and read each other's minds. So, when Ronaldo says he doesn't need hugs and kisses to succeed with his team, he must realise that it is collective trophies, not individual awards or big-mouthing in front of the press, that leave a truly lasting legacy.