What a way to win a cup final! FC Barcelona were imperious against Athletic Club in what could’ve been a very tricky assignment for them, but turned out to be anything but.
The Catalans dominated every facet of the final against the Basque team, just as they had done against he same opponents in the Copa del Rey finals of 2009, 2012 and 2015.
No wonder Athletic’s manager, Marcelino, had said before the game he wished they could play a final against Barca without Messi present.It was a comment that was even more profound once the Argentinian had written his name all over another final, his 10th for the club.
His two goals took him to nine in Copa finals, a new record for him, overtaking Athletic’s Telmo Zarra, a player from the 1950s whose historical records Messi has picked off one by one.
Indeed, it was felt that the various marks that Zarra had set would never be beaten, but Messi has defied logic in the modern era to cement his name into the history books.
His wasn’t the only performance to write home about, however.
After being out injured for a while, Gerard Pique stepped back into the centre of defence as though he’d never been away, his experience completely nullifying any threat Athletic had.
Frenkie de Jong too, was masterful when it mattered.
The Dutchman set up the first goal for Antoine Griezmann, another sterling performer, scored the second himself, assisted Lionel Messi for the third, and helped start off the move – of 60 passes – for a sublime fourth to seal the rout.
He also hit the post and Griezmann had one chalked off for marginal offside. Had either of those gone in, Barca would’ve equalled the 5-0 result from the 2018 final against Sevilla, the only time in the last 40 years that a club has scored five in a Copa del Rey final.
The manner of the performance has to go some way to convincing Lionel Messi to stay.
The captain said afterwards how special it was to win the trophy with Barca, and the celebrations in the dressing room afterwards spoke of a club back in the groove after he years of mismanagement by Sandro Rosell and then Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Barca still remain in with a shout of the La Liga title too, even though it will be difficult, and given how poorly this season began, Ronald Koeman and Co. can really have done no more to ensure that Messi remains at the Camp Nou.