Valverde admits Messi's brilliance transcends rivalries after Betis ovation

Valverde admits Messi's brilliance transcends rivalries after Betis ovation

And the Real Betis fans at the Benito Villamarín applauded too.

One wrote: "After all Messi's goals, we identify with the expression of Pau Lopez".

On the day Messi drew level with Andres Iniesta on 674 appearances for Barca, the captain moved ahead of Xavi to set a new club record for featuring in wins - this victory becoming his 477th.

Lopez then saved another Messi free-kick from slightly further out before Arthur's fine interception prevented a Betis equaliser.

Barcelona: Barcelona, which has also made it to the Copa del Rey final this year, is eyeing a three-trophy season.

Barca hit back in the end-to-end contest, though, and they should have doubled their lead five minutes before the interval when Messi laid the ball into the path of an unmarked Suarez, whose finish was tame and easy for Lopez to collect.

"The truth is that I do not remember it [happening before]", Messi said to Movistar after scoring his 33rd LaLiga hat-trick.

What does it mean?

They're now 10 points ahead of Atletico Madrid in second place, and 12 points ahead of rivals Real Madrid.

Overall, Messi has now scored 39 goals and registered 21 assists in 39 games across all competitions. The Argentina attacker - set to make his worldwide return after nine months away - hit those heights again as he took his LaLiga tally to 29 goals.

It was a goal which took Messi level with Cristiano Ronaldo on 34 La Liga hat-tricks, and the quality of his individual performance was such that even the Betis fans stood up and chanted his name to recognise a genius at work.

At 2-0, Betis were still in the game. Earlier in the season, they lost to them 4-3 at the Nou Camp and remain the only side to beat Erneste Valverde's team on their own patch this season. He will have been the most relieved man in the stadium to see the offside flag belatedly raised.

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