Messi’s derby delight reaffirms GOAT status

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WATCH | Magical Messi dazzles in Barcelona demolition

Blood red illuminated the dimly lit streets of El Prat as Espanyol ultras brought flares, fireworks and a few colourful chants to the foot of the stadium.

Heavily armed police could only watch on precariously as fans of all ages joined the chorus of chants - Any doubts over the rivalry between Barcelona and Espanyol went up in flames with the very first flare.

Inside the stadium, FC Barcelona’s hostile reception was exacerbated by a stadium ban for its travelling fans for crowd trouble in the last instalment of the Barcelona derby.

As expected, Gerard Pique received the most hostility for his long list of run-ins with Espanyol supporters and his outspoken stance on Catalan independence, a stark contrast to the Spanish allegiances Espanyol lends itself to.

The great Lionel Messi wasn’t excused either, with one fan hurtling down 20 rows to give the Argentine an RCDE welcome while he was taking a corner.

But the Barcelona superstar was unfazed by the atmosphere, leaving the raucous RCDE speechless with two goals and an assist, another example of why he is set to go down as the greatest footballer of all-time.

You would have heard a pin drop in the RCDE stadium after Lionel Messi’s opener, had it not been for the beIN SPORTS commentator Ray Hudson, who lost his iconic voice and a beer after the ball sailed past Diego Lopez.

Earlier this week, Messi was ranked outside the Ballon d’Or top two for the first time in over a decade. The five-time winner’s response - two stunning free kicks and an assist to make what’s been a resolute Espanyol defence this season look ordinary.

Barcelona could have scored six or seven, and the 32 year-old was at the heart of everything, gliding past defenders with ease, dribbling out of impossibly tight spaces and finding his team-mates in space with precision passing.

Perhaps we’ll never see a unanimous consensus over who is the greatest of all-time, but it’s becoming harder for team Pele, Maradona and Cristiano to argue against Lionel Messi, with every year that goes by.