Lionel Messi

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has heaped praise on Lionel Messi’s start to the Liga season after the Argentine bounced back from a disappointing World Cup with two goals against Alaves, AFP reports.

Messi sent an audacious second-half free-kick under the jumping wall and into the net for the opener, and Barca’s 6,000th La Liga goal, at the Camp Nou on Saturday before slotting in his second in injury-time after Philippe Coutinho had also scored in the 3-0 win.

“With Messi, you can expect absolutely anything,” Valverde said. “He sees things that others don’t see on the pitch.

“Sometimes we get too used to seeing it, he does things like he did today and we want him to pull a rabbit of the hat every time.

“He’s a genius and we’re lucky to be able to see him play every day.”

Messi has been left out of Argentina’s squad for the first post-World Cup friendlies following reports that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner asked to be excused from the four games.

He was unable to prevent a shambolic Argentina side from being knocked out of the World Cup in the last 16 stage in a 4-3 defeat to eventual winners France.

Midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets added their voices to Valverde’s praise of Messi, with Rakitic explaining the game had been “quite hard, until Messi appeared with his work of art,” while Busquets commented that “Leo makes the difference all the time. He hits perfection every year. We’ll never see another like him,” said the Spain international.

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