Lionel Messi has already played an important part for Barcelona this season but the forward finally hit his unstoppable best in a 5-1 win over Real Valladolid in La Liga on Tuesday.
Messi scored twice and created goals for Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez as champions Barca moved top of the table with 22 points from 10 matches.
Barcelona began the season in shaky form with Messi sidelined through injury, but since their captain started for the first time, on Sept. 24, they have won their seven matches in all competitions.
Before that they managed just two wins in six games, suffering defeats by Athletic Bilbao and Granada.
Barca struggled last week against Slavia Prague in the Champions League and barely scraped a 2-1 victory in the Czech capital but, with Messi firing on all cylinders, the team looked much improved against Valladolid.
After the Argentine’s fantastic pass set up Vidal, who put Barcelona 2-1 up, Messi netted the third with a spectacular goal from a free-kick, the 50th such strike of his career.
The forward added another goal in the second half with a slick swivel, gentle touch and drilled finish, before slipping in Suarez for the fifth.
“What can I say?” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said when asked about Messi’s display. “Every time he gets it (the ball), something happens, good for us and bad for them.
“He has this talent that nobody else has. It’s not just that he makes one move and unbalances them, but he sees what nobody else sees.
“I’m convinced that what he sees, you can’t even see from the stands. And now he looks fresher. We’re happy because he’s doing well and because we’re enjoying how he plays.”
The No. 10 has regained the ground he lost after a foot problem prevented him playing any part in pre-season.
If Barcelona’s title rivals had a headstart this season while the forward was out of action, Messi has already helped his side catch up and is just hitting the top of his game.