Neymar, Messi, Bale and Ronaldo Watch: Barca Pair Send Out Man City Warning

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2014

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 15:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his team-mate Neymar after scoring his team's fifth goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid at Camp Nou on February 15, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Business as usual. As Andoni Zubizarreta pointed out last week (h/t The Guardian), theses in football these days change from day to day. If you win 6-0 you’re at your best, and if your star player scores twice, he’s a hero once again—these are the narratives which emerged from Barcelona’s rout over Rayo Vallecano at Camp Nou on a mild Saturday evening.

It was by no means purely the Lionel Messi show, but his contribution was noteworthy. And not just because he broke a few more records along the way. Again.

On Wednesday night, his goal against Real Sociedad took him level with Telmo Zarra, on 335 goals, as the players who have scored the most goals in Spanish football. His first goal against Rayo, Barca’s second, took him clear at the top.

And what a goal it was.

Cesc Fabregas fed a ball through the Rayo back four which Messi latched on to, before proceeding to produce an enterprising chip over the advanced Ruben Martinez from just outside the penalty area.

The goal didn’t just take him above Zarra, it also drew him level with Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano as the fourth top scorer in the history of La Liga—one behind another Madrid great, Raul Gonzalez on 228.

He’d soon reel Raul in.

First, though, he set up Alexis Sanchez to clinically put Barca three up, before Pedro Rodriguez applied the finishing touches to a team move which would have been hailed as ‘Barcelona-like’ were it not executed by Barcelona themselves.

Alexis then turned provider, teeing Messi up to smash in the fifth, by which point Neymar had made his return to action as a replacement for Pedro.

La Liga's all-time top scorers
PlayerGoalsGamesGoals per game
1. Telmo Zarra2512780.91
2. Hugo Sanchez2343470.67
3. Lionel Messi2282630.86
3. Raul Gonzalez2285500.41
5. Alfredo Di Stefano2273290.69

The goal took Messi level with Raul, albeit in almost 300 fewer games. Zarra (251) and Hugo Sanchez (234) occupy the top two spots, but you can’t imagine it will be long until they too are displaced by the Argentine magician.

With Manchester City in sight, Gerardo Martino opted to withdraw Messi and, with that action, the baton for sending out a warning to the Manchester club was passed to the recently introduced Neymar—he didn’t disappoint.

With time ticking down and both teams seemingly accepting the score line, the Brazilian unleashed a firework from 30 yards which sizzled into the back of the net.

Welcome back indeed.

“I’m very happy to be able to play and I’m very happy that I scored,” he told the club’s official website after the win. “This month has been long, I was very eager to play.”

So often in past, battles between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been a case of you move, I move. A Ronaldo treble in the Champions League on a Tuesday would be followed by a Messi master class on the Wednesday, and so on.

However, with the Portuguese forward still suspended, that wasn’t to be the case this weekend—Gareth Bale was instead tasked with answering for him in Real Madrid’s match away at Getafe.

He didn’t do a great deal of answering, but fortunately Madrid had other people who stepped up to the plate in their city derby.

Jese Rodriguez’s rise continued, scoring the first goal, which Bale may want to claim an assist for—it was a simple pass and Jese did the hard work, but it was his pass which did lead to the goal.

GETAFE, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 16: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid CF  (2ndL) competes for the ball with Diego Castro (2ndR) of Getafe CF during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Real Madrid CF at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on February 16, 2014 in Getafe, Spain.
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Karim Benzema and Luka Modric completed the scoring in the 3-0 win, while Bale completed 90 minutes for the third consecutive game. It’s the first time that has happened since he arrived in Spain.

It was 90 minutes of little to note on the Welshman, though.

He passed up one chance, dragging a great opportunity wide after Benzema had done the hard work for him, and fired a well-placed free-kick into the wall.

It’s more minutes in the bank, though, as they say, and he’ll have to hope they’ll contribute to the return of his best form soon.

As for La Liga, we’ll spend another week with Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid all tied at the top again.


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