MADRID: Lionel Messi scored twice, including a stunning solo goal, as Barcelona blew away Athletic Bilbao to win the Copa del Rey on Saturday, consigning their opponents to a second final defeat in two weeks. The cup was won and lost in a whirlwind 12 minutes in Seville, which saw Barca score four times to clinch an emphatic 4-0 victory, with Messi at his devastating best.
It remains to be seen if his seventh Copa del Rey triumph is the last trophy Messi lifts in Barcelona colours but if this was to be a final flourish, the 33-year-old crafted a fitting farewell. “It’s very special to be captain of this team where I have spent my whole life and very special to be able to lift this cup,” Messi said.
His first goal, and Barca’s third, started with the Argentinian in his own half before a charging run down the right and a surge forward into the penalty area gave him the chance for a simple finish. With the club’s new president Joan Laporta in the crowd, Ronald Koeman’s first title as Barcelona coach should also significantly boost his chances of remaining in charge beyond the summer. “To win a title is important for me,” Koeman admitted afterwards.
Yet Laporta was noticeably evasive when asked about Koeman’s future. “He is doing well,” he said.
Koeman took over a team at rock bottom, humiliated by an historic loss to Bayern Munich and wounded by the attempts of Messi to leave the club for free. But this 31st Copa del Rey success for the club is a testament to progress made and Koeman will hope it not only helps convince Messi to stay but gives Barca momentum now in a neck-and-neck title race in La Liga.
“Despite the changes at the club and the young players, at Barca you have to always fight for trophies,” Koeman said. “We have the first one and now we are going to fight to the last game in La Liga.”
Gerard Pique said it felt like the club had been “reset”.