Magical Lionel Messi masterclass salvaged Copa del Rey trophy to end Barcelona’s season and gave Luis Enrique a happy send-off as the Catalans defend the Spanish Cup with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.
The win implies Enrique bows out after three seasons in control of the Catalan giants with nine trophies to his name, including the Cup in each time of his rule.
It was Messi who motivated Barca to bounce back from the failure of losing their La Liga title to arch-rivals Real Madrid a week ago with a shocking magical performance.
The Argentine international opened the scoring then teed up Neymar and Paco Alcacer to lead Barca to a record 29th Cup triumph after Theo Hernandez’s splendid free-kick had quickly helped Alaves equalised.
Barca were without the suspended Luis Suarez and Sergi Roberto and Enrique was forced into another reshuffle only 11 minutes in as Javier Mascherano was carried off with a head damage.
However, while Barca’s profundity has been highly criticised this season, Andre Gomes play right back after coming in for Mascherano and Alcacer took his chance on an uncommon start on the big stage in Suarez’s nonappearance.
A conspicuous difference to Barca’s transcendent run of six finals in seven years, Alaves were showing up in Spanish football’s show-stopper Interestingly, The Basques were thundered on by the more energetic fans at a long way from full Vicente Calderon in its last fixture before Atletico Madrid move home next season.
Alaves were left pondering what may have been had they proceeded when Ibai Gomez’s attempt bounced off the post, ricocheted off the back Jasper Cillessen, but, some way or another squirmed along the goal line and not into the net on 27 minutes.
After three minutes Messi commenced an exciting four-goal spell in the last 15 minutes of the half as he traded passes with Neymar before firing home his 54th goal of the season.
“Nine trophies in a club like Barca, who have had a glorious decade, means that the players have been at their very best and I was able to enjoy it. These trophies were down to the players and their ambition,” Luis Enrique told reporters.
“It’s great to finish the season with a trophy and not go home empty handed. We’ve won another trophy, but the team gave their best in every game.
“I feel satisfied about a job well done and I can’t wait to rest, to be with my family and enjoy some well deserved holiday.”