As long as Messi stays, Barca's golden age can continue

The Argentine attacker produced another spectacular show in Luis Enrique's last match and his presence at the club is more important than any coach


It was all about Lionel Messi. It always has been, really. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner turned in another masterclass against Alaves on Saturday night to show that, even with Luis Enrique leaving, this golden age can continue for Barcelona.

Barca win Copa del Rey

As the match kicked off at the Vicente Calderon, it was clear that Alaves had done their homework for the Copa del Rey final. Mauricio Pellegrini's side squeezed spaces in midfield and made Barca look rather ordinary in the early exchanges.

There was one exception, of course. Messi. The Argentine beat several rivals in one action in the first few minutes and floated over a delightful ball for Paco Alcacer (in the team for the suspended Luis Suarez), but the Spain striker was unable to control.

Messi was popping up all over the place and dribbling past rival players at will, with Alaves' defenders stopping him any way the could. For half an hour, Barca did not play well, but there was the sensation that - as so often before - one Messi moment could change everything.

Messi finals graphic

It did. The Argentine played a one-two with Neymar on the edge of the area and although there appeared to be little on, he picked out a spot in the corner with an inch-perfect curler that beat Fernando Pacheco to his right in the Alaves goal.

Barca & Madrid will meet in Supercopa

It was reminiscent of the last-gasp winner he had scored away to Real Madrid in La Liga last month - and even though Theo Hernandez hit back almost immediately for Alaves with a fantastic free-kick, more Messi magic put the game out of sight before half-time.

First, the 29-year-old took up a pass from Neymar and advanced to the edge of the area, drawing defenders his way before picking out the unmarked Andre Gomes, the Portuguese squaring for the Brazilian to tap home for 2-1.

And in stoppage time at the end of the first half, Messi got away from five defenders on an astonishing run as he cut in from the right before taking three of those out of the equation with a wonderful no-look through-ball to set up Alcacer for Barca's third.

Lionel Messi Barcelona Alaves Copa del Rey 27052017

Lionel Messi Barcelona Alaves Copa del Rey 27052017

It turned out to be the final goal in an official match at the Vicente Calderon, the final goal for Barca in 2016-17 and also the final goal with Luis Enrique as Blaugrana boss - a fitting finale for the stadium, the season and the coach.

Is Valverde good enough for Barca?

“Messi is an extraterrestrial in every sense and I’m very fortunate that I was able to enjoy the best, or one of the best, versions of him,” Luis Enrique said after the match. "Without a doubt he’s the number one and to be that you have to control every aspect and be very strong physically. He takes perfect care of himself, and there’s still a lot more to come from Messi."

There appears little doubt about that. So even though there is an element of disappointment as Barca missed out on the biggest prizes this term and also uncertainty as Luis Enrique departs this summer (to be replaced by Ernesto Valverde), with rebuilding and recruitment also needed, Messi remains a shining light for this team.

The Argentine is yet to sign a new contract, but will end up penning a renewal this summer and going on to produce perfect, peerless performances just like he did on Saturday. And with Leo in this kind of form, the club's golden age is set to continue for some time yet.