Valverde: Messi is extraordinary

Lionel Messi was hailed for his performance in helping Barcelona past Espanyol in the derby by coach Ernesto Valverde.

In a week that saw him criticised by Pele and finish fifth in the Ballon d’Or voting, the forward ended it by scoring twice in the Blaugrana’s 4-0 win.

As well as praising Messi’s display, the Txingurri was also pleased with the performance as a whole, but was hesitant to label the opening half in which they scored three as their best 45 minutes of the season.

“Messi is just extraordinary. The two goals, the chances created and what he gives us, he is extraordinary,” Valverde commented afterwards.

“I think it was a good game in general. We knew about the danger of Espanyol, especially at home, and they are a team that, aside from the last game, had won all of their matches here.

“We wanted to dominate and little by little, we managed to do that and I think the 3-0 [at half-time] reflected how the match went.

“But I don’t think that was our best [45 minutes of the year]. We were also great against Real Madrid.

“We came here knowing that we had a tough opponent. A derby is always special and we knew we had to win away from home.”

Despite Barcelona reclaiming top spot after Atletico took it away from them earlier in the day, Valverde insisted it is too early to focus on the table, with the Rojiblancos and Sevilla lurking just behind them.

“It is still very early and everything is very tight,” the former Olympiacos coach added.

“The idea is for us to keep getting better and stronger in away games but we know how hard it is to beat anyone in this league.”