One by one, members of the squad took it in turns to pose alongside Messi and the Copa del Rey trophy, which Barcelona had simply claimed by beating Athletic Bilbao 4-Zero in Saturday’s closing.

Messi, unsurprisingly, stole the present. While this match was maybe the breakout efficiency in a Barcelona shirt for teen Frenkie de Jong — for the primary time actually resembling the star Barcelona purchased from Ajax in 2019 — it was Barcelona’s third aim, Messi’s first, that this sport shall be remembered for.

Starting properly inside his personal half, Messi exchanged passes with Sergiño Dest, earlier than whizzing ahead and doing the identical with De Jong additional up the pitch.

De Jong’s return previous discovered Messi contained in the penalty space and the Argentine skipped between two Bilbao defenders and coolly slotted the ball into the underside nook.

It’s the sort of genius that followers have turn into accustomed to seeing when watching the diminutive No. 10 and it introduced again recollections of the opening aim within the 2015 Copa de Rey closing — additionally towards Bilbao — extensively thought-about one among Messi’s biggest ever.

Saturday’s opponents should absolutely be sick of the sight of Barcelona and its captain. Since Bilbao final received a serious trophy in 1984, the membership has now misplaced six Copa del Rey finals. Four of these closing defeats have been towards Barcelona and Messi has scored in every of them.

To make issues worse, with this defeat, Bilbao has now misplaced two Copa del Rey finals within the area of two weeks. The closing of the 2020 competitors had been postponed as a result of coronavirus pandemic and solely came about a fortnight in the past, with Bilbao shedding 1-Zero to Basque rival Real Sociedad.

This was Messi’s 35th trophy with Barcelona, however it might even be his final. Before the season began, Messi made it public that he had needed to go away Barcelona “all year” and it stays to be seen whether or not the workforce’s latest resurgence has modified his thoughts.

Saturday’s victory was the primary trophy for head coach Ronald Koeman, who took the job in the summertime, and it was a simply reward for the regular and incremental enhancements this workforce has made underneath his stewardship over the courtroom of the season.

Those enhancements have seen Barcelona shut the hole to La Liga chief Atletico Madrid to only one level — with Real Madrid simply one other level additional again — which means Koeman and Messi have yet one more real looking likelihood of successful a trophy earlier than the top of the season.

But home success could not be sufficient to satiate the urge for food of a participant that hasn’t received the Champions League since 2015 and this season’s 5-2 combination hammering by the hands of Paris Saint-Germain proved once more simply how far Barcelona stays behind Europe’s elite.

Lionel Messi hoists the Copa del Rey trophy aloft.

Whether this was goodbye or not, it was plain for all to see simply how a lot this title meant to Lionel Messi — Barcelona’s first since 2019. There was pure, real pleasure on his face as he hoisted the trophy above his head.

“It is very special to be captain of this team where I have spent my whole life,” Messi stated after the sport. “And very special to be able to lift the cup.”

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