Football

Valverde 'runs out of words' for Messi

Barca coach pays tribute to his Argentine star after four-goal masterclass

Lionel Messi added four more goals to his soaring early-season tally as a much-changed Barcelona maintained their 100 per cent start to La Liga by routing Eibar 6-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The clinical Argentinian now has 11 goals in his last five games in all competitions and with record signing Ousmane Dembele injured and Luis Suarez rested, he put on a sensational show at the Nou Camp.

Paulinho and Denis Suarez also netted for the second consecutive game as Barca stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to seven points over Real Madrid, before the Madrid club's home match with Real Betis this morning.

"From a move where it looks like nothing is going to happen, he can create something good for us and bad for the opposition," said Barca boss Ernesto Valverde after Messi's 43rd career hat-trick.

"That Messi scored four goals now isn't news. He has done it so many nights, in so many games. To keep repeating it is the most difficult thing. He is an extraordinary player. I have run out of words for him."

Having coached Athletic Bilbao before joining Barca, Valverde has faced Messi multiple times but, for summer signing Nelson Semedo, experiencing the Messi magic live is a relatively new sensation.

"Game by game, he surprises us, there are no words for him," said the Portuguese right back, who won the penalty which Messi converted for his first goal of the night in the 21st minute.

Messi's second was a remarkably accurate finish inside Marko Dmitrovic's far post just before the hour mark, while Paulinho played him in to stab home his hat-trick just three minutes later.

Barcelona's rout was completed when Messi played a one-two with Aleix Vidal and tucked home in the 87th minute past the despairing Dmitrovic.

BACK-UPS IMPRESS

"He's one of the most intelligent players I've seen on a football pitch. He's extraordinary," Valverde added on Movistar.

Denis Suarez, who scored and set up Paulinho with a corner for Barcelona's second of the night, said: "Messi makes everything easy. He's the best in the world. I hope we can have him for a lot of time."

Messi played in a more central role as Valverde heavily rotated his side for the first time since taking charge, making six changes from Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win at Getafe.

And contrary to their fortunes last season, Barca's back-ups proved Valverde can take the luxury of resting some of his star names, with Paulinho particularly impressive in his first start.

Meanwhile, Valencia moved up to third before this morning's fixtures, thanks to Simone Zaza's seven-minute hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of Malaga yesterday morning.

By contrast, a fifth straight defeat saw Malaga slip to the bottom of the table and plunges coach Michel into further danger of becoming the second La Liga boss to be sacked this term.

Said Valencia coach Marcelino: "I am tremendously proud of the performance of the players. It is a joy to be able to enjoy it with our fans." - WIRE SERVICES

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