Antoine Griezmann saved Barcelona from Copa del Rey humiliation as he scored a second-half double to see off Ibiza 2-1.

Having made an impressive start to his tenure with a dominant 1-0 win over Granada in which Barca had 82 per cent of possession, Setien rested Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique for the trip to the Balearic island.

LaLiga's pacesetters enjoyed similar superiority in terms of time on the ball, but appeared on course for an incredible upset defeat to the Segunda B club, who took the lead through a goal credited to Josep Caballe inside 10 minutes.

Ibiza had chances to extend their advantage, but the hosts eventually ran out of steam and Griezmann levelled in the 72nd minute, before securing Barca's progression to the last 16 in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

 

Willian Jose withdrew from Real Sociedad's squad for Wednesday's Copa del Rey clash with Espanyol amid reports he is set to join Tottenham.

Sociedad striker Willian Jose was initially named in Imanol Alguacil's squad, but the Brazilian pulled out of contention after asking the club to be left out until his situation is resolved.

It comes amid rumours the 28-year-old is a target for Premier League side Tottenham, who are set to be without Harry Kane until at least April after the England forward sustained a hamstring injury.

Willian Jose, who joined Sociedad in 2016, has scored eight goals in 20 LaLiga appearances this season.

Gareth Bale's agent described suggestions he is to leave Real Madrid on loan as "ridiculous" and assured he will see out the remainder of his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having made just nine LaLiga starts for Madrid this season, Bale has been the subject of speculation linking him with a move back to the Premier League with Tottenham or Manchester United.

Barnett did not rule out the possibility of the Wales international leaving Madrid but emphatically dismissed the suggestion of a loan exit.

"At the moment he is going to be playing football this evening for Real Madrid and he has got two and a half years left on his contract," Barnett told Sky Sports ahead of Zinedine Zidane's side taking on Unionistas de Salamanca in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

"He is fine, he will be there and everything will be fine.

"He is one of the best players on earth. Why would one of the best players on earth go on loan? That's ridiculous.

"That's what I have always said. I have never deviated. Things can change but loans are ridiculous and there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway."

Bale was on the verge of a move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning before the start of this season, but a reportedly difficult relationship with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane seems to have settled down.

Since he joined Madrid from Tottenham for €100million in 2013, Bale has won one LaLiga title and one Copa del Rey to go with his four Champions League winners' medals.

Barnett backed him to add to his collection of silverware before his time at the club comes to an end.

"He is happy and hopefully he will win a couple of more things with Real Madrid," he said.

Diego Simeone insists Joao Felix should not take it as a punishment if he is selected to face third-tier side Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Joao Felix, 20, joined Atletico for €126million in pre-season as the club looked to fill the void left by Antoine Griezmann's departure to Barcelona.

But the Portugal international has struggled to make an impact in LaLiga, getting two goals and one assist in 16 appearances.

He played 83 minutes of Atletico's 2-0 defeat to Eibar on Saturday but was again disappointing, hitting the target with only one of his three shots and failing to produce a single chance.

Simeone will be expected to rotate his squad for the trip to Segunda B2 promotion-chasers Cultural on Thursday, though he does not think playing in the match should be considered a negative for any of his first-team stars.

"I do not expect that [thought] - thinking that playing can be a punishment is to not value it," Simeone told reporters in his pre-match news conference.

"Everyone can be asked [to play]. It's not a punishment. Playing any game for Atletico Madrid is a dream, and whoever has to play, I hope they can get the minutes to develop in the best possible way."

Atletico have been strongly linked with Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani and media reports suggest an offer has even been submitted.

Simeone batted away questions relating to the Uruguay international, quickly changing the subject to the clash with Cultural.

"The only thing that worries me is the Copa del Rey match," he replied when told Cavani's relatives apparently want him to join Atletico.

"We live for the day-to-day and the results. The players who are not with us, they already know me, I don't usually think much about it."

Quique Setien has confirmed Barcelona are considering signing another striker to ease the loss of Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan's knee surgery.

Suarez, 32, was said to have been carrying a knee injury for a while before Barca revealed he was set for surgery on January 11.

Reports suggested that Barca only expected him to be missing for a few weeks, but a club statement the following day confirmed their worst fears, with Suarez likely to miss most of the season.

Unsurprisingly Barca have been strongly linked with several strikers since, with Osasuna's Chimy Avila, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner all mentioned as potential targets.

And while Setien refused to comment on specific names, he did confirm Barca are contemplating making a move.

"It is true that we are considering the signing of a number nine. We still have to develop things a little more," the head coach said ahead of the Copa del Rey trip to Ibiza.

"It's not an issue that worries me too much, I am more concerned about the games. It's an issue that I will have to deal with sports management about and we will see which is the most convenient.

"It's a matter [talk of specific players] I can't respond to you about, I won't either. I spoke a lot with the sports management about it, but we haven't decided on anything.

"It's all internal, so its preferable you don't ask me, as I won't say anything more."

The return of Ousmane Dembele could alleviate some of the burden on the remaining Barca attackers without Suarez, as the Frenchman is back in training after almost two months out with a thigh injury.

Dembele's Barca career has been somewhat underwhelming so far, though Setien still has high hopes for him.

"He's undoubtedly going to be very important," Setien said. "He's an extraordinary player who unfortunately hasn't had much consistency.

"Of course, he'll be very important, we hope he'll help us a lot."

Quique Setien has confirmed Barcelona are considering signing another striker to ease the loss of Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan's knee surgery.

Suarez, 32, was said to have been carrying a knee injury for a while before Barca revealed he was set for surgery on January 11.

Reports suggested that Barca only expected him to be missing for a few weeks, but a club statement the following day confirmed their worst fears, with Suarez likely to miss most of the season.

Unsurprisingly Barca have been strongly linked with several strikers since, with Osasuna's Chimy Avila, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner all mentioned as potential targets.

And while Setien refused to comment on specific names, he did confirm Barca are contemplating making a move.

"It is true that we are considering the signing of a number nine. We still have to develop things a little more," the head coach said ahead of the Copa del Rey trip to Ibiza.

"It's not an issue that worries me too much, I am more concerned about the games. It's an issue that I will have to deal with sports management about and we will see which is the most convenient.

"It's a matter [talk of specific players] I can't respond to you about, I won't either. I spoke a lot with the sports management about it, but we haven't decided on anything.

"It's all internal, so its preferable you don't ask me, as I won't say anything more."

The return of Ousmane Dembele could alleviate some of the burden on the remaining Barca attackers without Suarez, as the Frenchman is back in training after almost two months out with a thigh injury.

Dembele's Barca career has been somewhat underwhelming so far, though Setien still has high hopes for him.

"He's undoubtedly going to be very important," Setien said. "He's an extraordinary player who unfortunately hasn't had much consistency.

"Of course, he'll be very important, we hope he'll help us a lot."

Gareth Bale has returned to the Real Madrid squad for the Copa del Rey trip to Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday.

The Wales forward has not featured since the 3-0 LaLiga victory at Getafe on January 4, missing Madrid's Supercopa de Espana triumph in Jeddah and the 2-1 league win over Sevilla last week.

Bale has been brought back for the cup clash, along with James Rodriguez, while Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Rodrygo Goes have been given a rest and captain Sergio Ramos is still missing following an ankle problem.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane has also left out Alvaro Odriozola and Mariano Diaz, who are expected to leave during the transfer window.

Odriozola has emerged as a loan target for Bayern Munich and is reportedly travelling to Germany to finalise a deal.

Mariano, meanwhile, has been linked with Benfica and former club Lyon.

Zinedine Zidane expects a difficult Copa del Rey tie against minnows Unionistas de Salamanca but says his Real Madrid side will be well prepared for a wintry test.

Madrid visit Salamanca, who play at 4,000-capacity Las Pistas - a ground which was covered in snow on Tuesday.

Wednesday's match is a huge clash for the Segunda B side and Zidane is fully prepared for a tough evening.

However, the Madrid head coach insists playing at such a small venue and on a difficult pitch will be nothing new for Los Blancos' star-studded squad.

"We have to be totally concentrated, we have to do what we've been doing until now. We have to be ready for the game," Zidane, who confirmed Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez will be available, told a media conference.

"Our players have started out playing on pitches like this, me as well. Difficulties out on the pitch that you're not used to. Mentally we're prepared and in a sporting sense as well.

"We know where we're going to play and what to expect. Perhaps it's 10 or 15 years ago but we've all played on pitches like this, so we're prepared.

"We have to do what we have to do. We have to be ready, it's a cup game and we have to give everything. We know the situation, know where we're going to play, but it's a game of football and our duty is to be ready.

"We're like that not just in every game, but every training session. From day to day we have to be ready for these types of games. It's a very important game."

The Copa del Rey used to have two legs throughout each round but its schedule has been reduced, with the tournament changed to a single-match format until the semi-finals.

"From my experience in France it was always one game and that's it, so my custom is to play one game," Zidane said, when asked if the new format left Madrid with less margin for error.

"Now it's here in Spain and we have to accept that, it's one game and out. So you have to accept it and go and play it like that."

One player who seems unlikely to be involved on Wednesday is Alvaro Odriozola, with the defender having reportedly not trained amid reports he is about to join Bayern Munich on loan.

Zidane did not reveal which clubs are interested in signing Odriozola, but he confirmed the full-back could leave Madrid this month.

"He has an option to go and play elsewhere but nothing is official yet, we're going to wait and see," said Zidane, who may consider recalling Jesus Vallejo from his loan at Wolves.

"The option of Alvaro going is a possibility, it's not official. I'm not going to get rid of one to sign someone else. We've got a big squad and an option could be [bringing back] Vallejo but we don't know yet."

Real Madrid face lower-tier side Unionistas de Salamanca in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday and the minnows' tiny ground Las Pistas was caked in snow a day prior.

Snow is not a thing that immediately comes to mind when it comes to Spanish weather but Salamanca in the centre of the country had its fair share.

Unionistas host LaLiga giants Madrid, with their Las Pistas ground set to be packed to its 4,000 capacity.

However, the groundsmen will have plenty of work to do to get the pitch into shape after the ground was covered in snow as temperatures dipped below freezing.

Salamanca is set to warm up slightly on Wednesday, though Madrid's stars will be playing in conditions of around four degrees Celcius by the time of kick-off.

While Unionistas will have to spend Tuesday clearing their ground of snow, Madrid trained in much better conditions in the capital.

"We may play tomorrow on a carpet of white," the Segunda B side tweeted, along with a photo of their ground covered in snow. "That's how Las Pistas dawned after the snowfall last night."

Quique Setien's first Barcelona away game will take place on the party island of Ibiza.

Setien, who on Monday agreed to be Ernesto Valverde's successor at Camp Nou on a deal until 2022, will take his new team to the Balearic Island in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

The game, which will take place next midweek, will follow Setien's first game in charge, at home to Granada on Sunday.

Real Madrid were paired with Segunda B Group 2 strugglers Unionistas Salamanca while city rivals Atletico will visit Cultural Leonesa.

Defending champions Valencia, the final team in pot one, face a potential banana skin when they go to Segunda B Group 2 table-toppers UD Logrones.

Given he delivered back-to-back LaLiga titles and left Barcelona still at the summit, Ernesto Valverde's departure appears perplexing on the surface.

There has been no great decline to speak of, no obvious player revolt and no boardroom bickering.

Why then have the Blaugrana opted to part ways with their head coach and replace him with Quique Setien, a man who could only lead Real Betis to a 10th-place finish last term?

We have taken a look at the five games which might have ultimately resulted in Valverde's exit.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona. Champions League quarter-final second leg. April 10, 2018.

After being beaten in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana by Real Madrid to begin his reign, things picked up for Valverde, who enjoyed a 36-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2017-18 LaLiga campaign.

However, two and a half weeks before that title triumph was sealed, Barcelona were stunned in Europe.

Valverde's side were in control of the tie having beaten the Serie A side 4-1 at home, but Roma became only the third side in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more.

Greek defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal eight minutes from time as Roma went through on away goals and Valverde suffered his first, but not last, European humiliation.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. Champions League semi-final second leg. May 7, 2019.

Fast forward a year and a case of deja vu, with Barca sitting pretty on a 3-0 first-leg lead in their last-four tie against Liverpool.

The Reds were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the return fixture at Anfield, where Divock Origi's early goal only gave them a sliver of hope.

Yet Barca looked shell-shocked as Georginio Wijnaldum's double was followed up by another Origi strike, Liverpool incredibly progressing to a final they would win.

Described in the Spanish press as a "debacle", "tragedy" and "historic failure", the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point.

Barcelona 1-2 Valencia. Copa del Rey final. May 25, 2019. 

Not even a second LaLiga title could silence Valverde's doubters, who had more ammo when his team lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Valverde had hoped a victory would ease the pain of the Liverpool loss but Barca were stunned again, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo putting Valencia 2-0 ahead before Lionel Messi pulled one back.

Rather than wield the axe, though, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu absolved Valverde of blame for the result.

 

Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona. LaLiga. January 4, 2020.

Away defeats to Athletic Bilbao, Granada and Levante would have looked costlier had the champions' nearest rivals Real Madrid not stumbled along themselves in the first half of this season.

Both teams' struggles were evident in a 0-0 Clasico draw at Camp Nou in December, but it was Barcelona's first result back after the mid-season break that would have set more alarm bells ringing.

Derby rivals Espanyol were bottom of the table and had not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2009 but Frenkie de Jong was sent off as the strugglers claimed a 2-2 draw.

Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid. Supercopa de Espana semi-final. January 9, 2020.

Five days later and it got even worse for Valverde and Barcelona.

Leading 2-1 in Saudi Arabia with nine minutes to go, the Blaugrana collapsed again late on, with Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa sending Atletico through to a final against their cross-city rivals Madrid.

It meant Barcelona had won just one of their previous five games, a sour note to end on for Valverde.

Arguably the most surprising factor around Ernesto Valverde's exit at Barcelona is the distinct lack of surprise.

Since replacing Luis Enrique at Camp Nou in May 2017, the former Athletic Bilbao boss has won four major honours and claimed victory in 66 of his 95 LaLiga games.

And yet there has been an ever-present grumble in the background. Whether it be grievances over his style of play or somewhat more legitimate concerns over big collapses to Roma and Liverpool in the Champions League in the previous two campaigns, the rumblings of discontent have never been too far away. 

Still, his departure – which came after a 3-2 defeat in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals to Atletico Madrid – seems a little harsh, and we look at five reasons Valverde, who has been replaced by Quique Setien, might feel he has been treated unfairly.

 

HE'S A TWO-TIME LALIGA WINNER

What seems harshest of all is that, despite frequent talk of a "crisis", Valverde steered Barca to LaLiga glory in each of his two full seasons in charge. Indeed, the Blaugrana were beaten just once as they cantered to the trophy in the 2017-18 campaign. The more sceptical of pundits may point to the fact that last season their great Clasico rivals Real Madrid endured a poor campaign, losing 12 times and finishing 19 points adrift. But still, while Champions League success eluded him, in LaLiga Barca have continued to dominate. Throw in a Copa del Rey and a Supercopa de Espana and the trophy return has remained healthy.

THEY'RE TOP OF THE LEAGUE

Okay, so if we're being honest, Barca have not been anywhere their best this term – particularly in defence where the 23 goals they have conceded is 11 more than Madrid and Atletico. But as things stand Barca are top of LaLiga, albeit only by goal difference from Madrid. Three defeats and four draws from 19 matches may not make for great reading for a club that has been so utterly dominant domestically, but they remain top of the pile.

MESSI IS A BALLON D'OR WINNER AGAIN

Granted, the caveat here is you could argue Messi doesn't really need to win football's most prestigious individual prize to lay his claims as the greatest player on the planet. But the fact remains he failed to win the previous three Ballons d'Or before beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk in 2019. Under Valverde, Messi has been at his majestic best, with the Argentina superstar scoring a remarkable 83 goals in 84 LaLiga games. While others from Barca's golden era are perceived to be on the decline, Messi has continued to wow the football world.

BARCA'S RECRUITMENT HAS BEEN…QUESTIONABLE

Valverde may be coach of the team and will probably have some say when it comes to the direction the club goes in with signings, but as is the way with modern football, others are in charge of recruitment. Chief executive Oscar Grau and sporting director Eric Abidal are ultimately responsible on that front, although it was Pep Segura prior to the former France international. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jeison Murillo have been among the more head-scratcher signings, while Malcom was snatched from under the noses of Roma but proved a complete flop. Philippe Coutinho underwhelmed after his big-money arrival from Liverpool and was shipped out on loan to Bayern Munich, while Ousmane Dembele has been hit-and-miss at best. Arturo Vidal has had his moments, Yerry Mina mainly disappointed but at least brought in a big fee and Jean-Clair Todibo has rarely featured despite showing promise. Antoine Griezmann's arrival was met with fanfare but the France international has been nowhere near the standard he showed at rivals Atletico.

AGING STARS ON THE DECLINE

With the exception of Messi, who at 32 is like the proverbial bottle of fine wine and getting better with age, you can argue Valverde is getting the best from a crop of players who are no longer at the height of their powers. Centre-back Gerard Pique has been out of form, Luis Suarez remains an undoubted talent but perhaps not at the same level as he was in the treble-winning days of Luis Enrique, while Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets are also in their 30s. To point the finger solely at Valverde is slightly ludicrous. 

The RFEF's Technical Committee of Referees is making changes for the Supercopa de Espana, introducing goal-line technology for the first time while improving communication for VAR decisions.

A revamped Supercopa will take place in Saudi Arabia in January, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia involved.

For the first time in Spanish football, goal-line technology will be implemented in order to aid officials, with previous such calls made with the help of the VAR.

Referees chief Carlos Velasco Carballo explained on Wednesday: "The system consists of 14 cameras on the pitch. A high resolution camera will be on the goal line.

"This system is connected to the referees and, in less than a second, you hear the word 'goal' three times and the watch will vibrates to indicate the goal.

"It's historic in Spanish football."

The use of VAR in the first part of the LaLiga season was also discussed, with Velasco Carballo revealing the system had corrected 19 of 23 officiating errors.

Criticism of VAR has often come from the way calls are communicated to supporters within the stadium, but Velasco Carballo has outlined plans to improve this problem for the Supercopa.

A "Vardict" system on screens aims to ensure fans are kept up to date.

He said: "It will serve to communicate the decisions to the spectators in the stadium, a fundamental aspect in the success of the VAR. They will have the same information as the spectators watching on television."

A new four-team format has been finalised for the Supercopa de Espana that will see the competition moved to Saudi Arabia for the next three years, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has confirmed.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales revealed a proposal to convert the season curtain-raiser into a mini-tournament in February this year.

Last season's Supercopa – traditionally a two-legged affair played between the winners of LaLiga and the Copa del Rey – was the first to be played abroad, as Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-1 in Tangier, Morocco, with the singular match officially classed as a friendly.

But the success of the contest from the RFEF's perspective proved its viability and it is pushing ahead with the plans having struck an agreement for Saudi Arabia to play host over the next three years, starting in February 2020.

With four teams – the Copa finalists and LaLiga's top two – set to be involved, the RFEF has moved the competition to Spain's winter in order to "lighten the calendar", instead of playing it at the start of the season.

Following confirmation of the revamp on Monday, the RFEF also revealed the historic first fixtures, with Real Madrid and Barcelona facing Valencia and Atletico Madrid, respectively, in the semi-finals, teeing up a potential Clasico finale on February 12.

Copa del Rey holders Valencia were particularly vocal in their opposition of the initial plans put forward by the RFEF, while many criticised the governing body for fraternising with a country that has a questionable human rights record.

But the RFEF has called the deal an "engine for social change" and confirmed women will be allowed "unrestricted access to the matches" and the launch of a women's football competition in the region.

RFEF believe the internationalisation of the competition will improve its credibility and subsequently boost Spain's bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

Media reports have claimed the RFEF stands to bring in €40million for every season the Supercopa is hosted in Saudi Arabia. Aside from club prize money, the federation pledges to invest all its entire income from the agreement in amateur football.

On October 16, 2004, Lionel Messi got his first taste of competitive senior football for Barcelona, coming on as a substitute for Deco against city rivals Espanyol.

Few watching at the time could have imagined quite what was to come from the Argentinian maestro, who has gone on to become arguably the greatest player of all time.

Messi's influence at Barca has become unrivalled, scoring 604 times to become their all-time leading scorer.

Fittingly, the 15th anniversary of his Barca debut comes on the same day he was presented with the European Golden Shoe for last season, and we have looked back at 10 of his very best goals in action for Barcelona.

Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already had one goal wrongly ruled out for offside - an audacious chip from the edge of the box - Messi's focus was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's scooped pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete stopper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for one of Europe's great clubs.

Getafe (H): April 18, 2007

In the 14 years since Messi first got on the scoresheet, one strike stands out as the best: his Diego Maradona-esque solo goal against Getafe. Messi picked up the ball in his own half and danced around two players before turning on the pace, beating two more defenders and going around the goalkeeper, capping it with a right-footed finish.

Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, Messi's strike against Real Zaragoza seemed to take him from 'very good' into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in this goal, which began when he won the ball from a tackle on halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling the ball into the far corner, leaving coach Pep Guardiola speechless.

Athletic Bilbao (A): April 27, 2013

Barca were in the midst of a Champions League semi-final shellacking from Bayern Munich when they arrived at San Mames. A goal down in a match that would eventually finish 2-2, Messi received possession from Thiago Alcantara, twisted past Mikel San Jose, Carlos Gurpegui and Ander Herrera with minimal space in which to operate before nonchalantly sidefooting home from just inside the penalty area.

Cordoba (H): December 20, 2014

Messi rounded off a 5-0 procession at Camp Nou with a frankly absurd piece of technique. Cordoba defender Jose Angel Crespo made glancing headed contact with Jordi Alba's searching cross from the left that might ordinarily have averted danger. But Barca's star man pulled the ball down with his left foot, swivelled 180 degrees and crashed right footed past Juan Carlos at the goalkeeper's near post.

Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

Having already opened the scoring three minutes earlier to give Barca a 1-0 advantage over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, Messi doubled his tally with a sumptuous effort. Ivan Rakitic's pass sent Messi on his way, before the little maestro's trickery put Jerome Boateng on his backside and allowed the Argentine to casually lift the ball over the onrushing Manuel Neuer.

Athletic Bilbao (N): May 30, 2015

The second part of a treble-winning season for Barca came in the form of the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao. With 20 minutes gone and the score deadlocked, Messi set off on a marauding run down the right wing and soon found himself trapped among three defenders. Naturally, Messi was able to float past the trio as if they were not there, before cutting into the box and beating Iago Herrerin at his near post.

Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Real Madrid the title and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in the 92nd minute gave Jordi Alba the chance to square it to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

Real Sociedad (A): January 18, 2018

Over the past few years, Messi has really mastered the art of free-kick taking, with the skill being one of few to elude him in his younger days. This strike in a 4-2 LaLiga triumph at La Real last January showed just how far he has come, as he lined up a set-piece about 35 yards from goal and coolly curled it into the top-left corner, wrapping up victory for Barca, who had fallen 2-0 behind. 

Real Betis – March 17, 2019

We have become so accustomed to Messi's brilliance that he makes the extraordinary seem normal, but his hat-trick clincher in March's 4-1 win at Real Betis was pure genius. After receiving a cut-back from Ivan Rakitic, he caressed a first-time chipped effort over Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from about 18 yards when shooting through a crowded penalty area looked an impossibility.

Page 5 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.