September 20, 2017
Ernesto Valverde was almost at a loss for words after another astonishing Lionel Messi performance helped Barcelona beat Eibar 6-1 and extend their winning start to the season in La Liga to five games.
Four of Barca’s goals in the win at Camp Nou came from the boots of Messi, with Paulinho and Denis Suarez also on target for the second game running.
Messi, who has now scored 39 hat tricks for his club, has already scored 12 times in just eight games in all competitions this season and has nine in five league outings.
“I don’t know what to say about Messi,” Valverde said in his postgame news conference. “He is one of the most intelligent players I’ve seen on a football pitch. He’s extraordinary. Today we played in a different way, without Luis [Suarez], but Messi is the same wherever you put him.
“From a play where it looks like nothing’s going to happen, he can create something good for us… and bad for the opposition.
“That he scores four goals isn’t news anymore. He’s done this time and again, on many nights and in many games. He repeats it, he repeats it and he repeats it. He loves football, he enjoys it and he never tires of winning.”
While it was the Messi show once again, there was also a role for summer signing for Paulinho to play for the second game running.
The Brazilian hit the winner at Getafe at the weekend and scored and created a goal against Eibar.
“[Paulinho] adds something different, something we didn’t have in the squad with the other players,” Valverde said.
“He makes those runs into the area, he’s [a threat] from set plays. At the beginning, he was a little lost, but he’s been getting up to speed. Other players have more positional play; he’s strength, breaking the lines, set plays. The goal[s] have helped him settle.”
Paulinho was one of six changes to the Barca side, with Luis Suarez among those afforded a break after he returned from a knee injury two weeks early to feature for Uruguay earlier this month.
“I think this break will do him well,” Valverde added with Saturday’s trip to Catalan rivals Girona in mind.
“He’s fine, but we thought a rest would be good. We hope he can help us moving forward. Today we made some changes to give some players a rest and others minutes and it came off.
“But the game wasn’t as easy as the scoreline makes it look. It wasn’t easy. The scoreline is big, but [Eibar] pressed us.
“At 6-1 it looks like we rolled them over, but that wasn’t the case. They applied a lot of high pressure and had chances. They’re a brave team.”