Published 31/01/2021 at 19:21 GMT | Updated 31/01/2021 at 22:14 GMT
Antoine Griezmann scored the winner as Barcelona moved above Real Madrid and into second place with a 2-1 home victory over Athletic Club.
The match was played against a backdrop of chatter around the details of Messi’s €555m contract, revealed in Sunday’s edition of El Mundo newspaper, but the Argentine allowed his football to do the talking for him here.
It was Messi who opened the scoring in stunning fashion, finding the top corner of the Athletic Club net from a free-kick over 20 yards out despite the best efforts of Yeray back on the goal line.
Athletic Club hit back just with an equaliser four minutes into the second half, though, when Jordi Alba diverted a Raul Garcia cross into his own net under pressure from Oscar de Marcos.
But Barcelona scored what proved to be the winner 16 minutes from the end when a good passing move resulted in Griezmann finishing from close range following a pinpoint assist from Oscar Mingueza down the right wing.
The three points was enough to take Barcelona up to second place in the La Liga table, above Real Madrid on goal difference following their shock defeat to Levante on Saturday, with Atletico Madrid’s lead at the top standing at 10 points.
TALKING POINT - A fired up Lionel Messi makes his point
This was Messi’s opportunity to hit back at all those who had spent Sunday criticising him for what was revealed in the Spanish press regarding the terms of his contract and he took that opportunity by turning in a sparkling performance. The political situation at the Camp Nou is a complicated one. Whoever leaked Messi’s contract to El Mundo clearly has reason to paint the Argentine as the bad guy pushing Barca close to financial ruin, but it was clear from early on that the 33-year-old was fired up. He made his point on the pitch. Maybe he is worth €555m after all.
Image credit: Eurosport
MAN OF THE MATCH - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Almost every Barcelona attack flowed through Messi. It was his stunning freekick that put the Catalans ahead in the first half and it was his drive that pushed Barca towards a winner in the second half. This was a system that appeared to suit Messi, who had the freedom to drift inside off the right and link up with Pedri, Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele. Nine goals in 10 games isn’t a bad record for a player supposedly enduring a below par season.
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Barcelona - Ter Stegen 6, Mingueza 8, Araujo 7, Umtiti 7, Alba 6, Pjanic 6, De Jong 5, Pedri 6, Dembele 7, Messi 9, Griezmann 8. Subs - Roberto 3, Braithwaite 3, Lenglet 3.
Athletic Club - Simon 7, Capa 6, Yeray 5, I. Martinez 5, Yuri 8, De Marcos 6, D. Garcia 6, Vencedor 5, Muniain 5, Williams 5, R. Garcia 7. Subs - Lekue 4, Vesga 4, Villalibre 3, Berenguer 3.
5’ Simon denies Messi! What an opportunity for the Barcelona number 10! Messi was released in behind the Athletic Club defence, but Simon makes the one-on-one save at his near post!
20’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Club: What a goal and it just had to be Messi given the recent chat around his contract! The Barcelona number 10 finds the top corner of the net from a freekick just over 20 yards out! Yeray was back on the line, but he couldn't keep it out!
49’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-1 Athletic Club: Athletic Club are back on level terms early on in the second half! Garcia burst down the right side and got the cross into the box. De Marcos was backing the run to the back post and Alba diverts the ball into the back of his own net!
58’ What a save! Pjanic makes a late run into the penalty box to get on the end of a Griezmann delivery, his header was a powerful one, but Simon was alert and made the diving save!
74’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Athletic Club: Griezmann has given Barcelona the lead 15 minutes from the end! It was a good move from the Catalans with Mingueza feeding the pass into the French forward and he had no trouble in converting into the empty net from close range!
Lionel Messi Barcelona - Athletic
Image credit: Getty Images
Lionel Messi has now scored 650 goals in all competitions for Barcelona, 49 of which have been from direct free-kicks.
Antoine Griezmann has scored more goals against Athletic Club (11) than any other side in La Liga over the course of his career.