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'He makes you a goal from anywhere' - Valverde praises Messi display in Barcelona win

22:13 GMT+3 21/12/2019
Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20
The Argentine superstar may not have been at his vintage best, but he continues to influence games and set new records in the process

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde paid tribute to Lionel Messi for his innate ability to make a decisive impact following a wonderful goal in Saturday's 4-1 win over Deportivo Alaves.

Other than having an early goal disallowed, Messi had been unusually subdued by his standards at Camp Nou.

Although Barca went into half-time 2-0 up, Alaves scored early in the second period through midfielder Pere Pons and grew in confidence, until Messi struck his 50th goal for club and country this year with 21 minutes remaining.

Seemingly surrounded by players, Messi managed to unleashed a fierce strike into the left side of the net from 25 yards.

It means the 32-year-old has now scored at least 50 goals club and country in nine of the last 10 calendar years.

With their two-goal lead restored Barca cruised from there, with Luis Suarez – who set up the first three goals – adding a late fourth from the penalty spot.

Despite Suarez arguably being the star of the show, Valverde focused on Messi after the match, singling out the Argentine’s impact when Barca were appearing to lose some of their control at the start of the second period.

"All matches require a lot," the coach said. "When they scored, they were spurred on and they had the chance to equalise, but Leo scored a great goal and things are seen in a different way from there.

"I think we played the game well, I would say the first half was very good, then we had less momentum at the beginning of the second. We got a boost with the third goal.

"These things happen with Messi. We see it all the time. Something like that can happen, and it's a huge advantage that we have Messi.

"Leo appears and makes you a goal from anywhere."

With Saturday's win, Barca are likely to go into 2020 top of La Liga, with Real Madrid needing a big win against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to prevent that occurring.

Barcelona’s first match after the winter break is a trip to city rivals Espanyol on January 4.