A year ago Lionel Messi cut a dejected figure having just been forced to start from the substitute’s bench as Barcelona suffered a dismal defeat to Real Sociedad. The following day he missed a training session and his very future at the Camp Nou was called into question. Instead, he would go onto have one of his finest years, and next Monday he is all-but certain to win his fifth Ballon d’Or crown. He has started 2016 right where he left off.
On Wednesday, having already scored one goal to bring Barcelona level in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last 16 matchup with local rivals Espanyol, Messi put his team in front with a superb free-kick right before halftime. Rather than place the ball, the Argentinean struck it from more than 25 yards with full force sending it crashing off the underside of the crossbar and down into the net past goalkeeper Pau Lopez.
Earlier Messi had fired back for Barcelona just four minutes after Espanyol had taken the lead through Felipe Caicedo. Making his first appearance since his transfer from Atletico Madrid last summer, Arda Turan played his part in the move, before Andres Iniesta found Messi in the box, who finished emphatically.