After struggling for Argentina yet again, Messi returned to Barcelona and thrived as usual, scoring twice in the team’s 2-0 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Saturday.
Messi scored a brace on Saturday to break the 40-goal mark for the 10th straight season. He opened the scoring with a free kick in the 71st and sealed the victory from inside the area in the 89th, leaving Barcelona 13 points ahead of Atletico Madrid.
Messi scored six goals in his last three matches with Barcelona before the international break, where once again, he struggled to help Argentina in a 3-1 loss to Venezuela in a friendly last week. He later complained about the constant criticism against him in his homeland, saying even his six-year-old son asked why he was being attacked.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde defended Messi on Saturday. “Messi is the same player with Barcelona and with Argentina, and he would be the same if he played with Australia,” Valverde said. “All I can say is that we are delighted with him,” he continued.
There were no complaints from the crowd at Camp Nou Stadium after another great performance by Messi, who leads the league scoring list with 31 goals, 13 more than his closest competitor and teammate, Luis Suarez.