Barcelona — Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has heaped praise on Lionel Messi’s start to the Liga season after the Argentine bounced back from a disappointing World Cup with two goals against Alaves.
Messi sent an audacious second-half free-kick under the jumping wall and into the net for the opener, and Barca’s 6,000th La Liga goal, at the Camp Nou on Saturday before slotting in his second in injury-time after Philippe Coutinho also scored in the 3-0 win.
"With Messi, you can expect absolutely anything," Valverde said. "He sees things that others don’t see on the pitch.
"Sometimes we get too used to seeing it, he does things like he did today and we want him to pull a rabbit [out] of the hat every time. He’s a genius and we’re lucky to be able to see him play every day."
Messi has been left out of Argentina’s squad for the first post-World Cup friendlies following reports that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner asked to be excused from the four games.
He was unable to prevent Argentina from being knocked out of the World Cup in the last 16 stage in a 4-3 defeat to eventual winners France.
Elsewhere on Saturday, former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla played his first competitive game in two years following nightmare injuries.
The Spanish international suffered an Achilles injury playing for Arsenal in the Champions League in October 2016.
After eight operations, he suffered a serious infection in the tendon that almost led to an amputation. But he fought back and returned to Villarreal for a season-opener at home to Real Sociedad, as his side took a first-half lead.
However, the visitors fought back to win 2-1.