Lionel Messi reached a notable personal milestone under Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona as he scored twice and provided two assists in a 5-1 thumping of Real Valladolid.

After teeing up Arturo Vidal to put Barca 2-1 up at Camp Nou, Messi curled a wonderful free-kick beyond Jordi Masip to score his 100th goal in all competitions since Valverde was placed in charge at the club.

As well as bringing up his century since the start of the 2017-18 season, it was also the 50th time Messi had netted directly from a free-kick in his career for both club and country, with six of his set-piece goals scored for Argentina.

The 32-year-old was not finished there, though, as he lashed home his second from inside the penalty area before compounding Valladolid's misery when he set up Luis Suarez for the home side's fifth and final goal.

Suarez has now scored against every club he has faced in LaLiga, while Messi could have completed an impressive hat-trick late on, only to drill narrowly wide from close range.

Still, the emphatic result sees Barca move to the top of the table, two points clear of surprise package Granada and Atletico Madrid, the latter held to a 1-1 draw away at Deportivo Alaves.

Lionel Messi was Barcelona's inspiration with two goals and a pair of assists as the Blaugrana demolished Real Valladolid 5-1 at Camp Nou to go top of LaLiga.

The postponement of El Clasico – which was initially scheduled for October 26 – due to Catalan political tension allowed promoted Granada to become the unlikely leaders, but Barca restored normal service with a crushing victory, led by Messi.

Although Clement Lenglet's serendipitous opener was cancelled out by an even more fortuitous Kiko Olivas equaliser, Messi was able to drag Barca into a commanding lead, setting up Arturo Vidal and then netting a stunning free-kick.

Ernesto Valverde's men eased off initially in the second half, but Messi remained in the zone, slamming home Barca's fourth before then setting up Luis Suarez to round off a brilliant individual display from the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Barca led with just two minutes played when Lenglet's strike deflected on to the crossbar and in, a kind ricochet sending the ball right to him.

Valladolid levelled soon after, as Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a mess of Michel's wicked free-kick delivery and the ball went in off the oblivious Kiko.

Messi, however, was in an ominous mood.

The Argentina star delivered a delightful lofted pass into the box for Vidal to nudge past Jordi Masip, before then finding the top-right corner with a 30-yard free-kick in the 34th minute.

Messi was a central figure again early in the second half, darting forward and feeding Ansu Fati into the box, but he delayed his shot enough to allow for a defender to deflect it on to Masip's leg.

Shortly after Suarez had a goal disallowed for offside, Messi opened up a three-goal lead – controlling Ivan Rakitic's pass on the thigh before swivelling and blasting in.

Suarez then finished Valladolid off, tucking away after being released by Messi's incisive pass.

 

What does it mean?

Victory rarely looked in doubt on Tuesday, even when Valladolid equalised. Sealing all three points allowed Barca to take full advantage of Atletico Madrid slipping up at Deportivo Alaves earlier in the day.

They now have 22 points, two more than Diego Simeone's men and Granada, the surprise package of LaLiga this term.

Messi unplayable

Valladolid were not shy about getting physical with Barca, but there was little they could do to knock Messi off his stride. The forward provided four key passes, set up two goals and got a pair for himself – you cannot ask for much more than that.

Fati fails to shine

Starting alongside Messi for the first time, there will have been plenty of excitement from fans before kick-off, but Fati struggled in his duel with Pedro Porro and wasted a fine chance when teed up by Messi in the second half.

What's next?

Barca travel to Valencia for a contest with Levante on Saturday, while Valladolid host Real Mallorca the following day.

Lucas Perez's stunning late goal denied Atletico Madrid as Deportivo Alaves clinched a 1-1 draw at Mendizorroza on Tuesday, preventing Diego Simeone's side from going top of LaLiga.

Atletico looked to have secured a trademark 1-0 win in unspectacular circumstances when Alvaro Morata scored 20 minutes from time, but Perez levelled in style, making it five league outings in a row with a goal for the West Ham flop.

During a dismal first half, Atletico looked utterly devoid of intent, while Alaves often appeared clueless in possession, only looking even moderately threatening from distance or with hopeful long balls into the box.

Proceedings livened up a little after the break and substitute Morata had seemingly put his team on course for a victory that would have put Atletico top for at least a few hours, but Perez stuck with seven minutes to go to salvage a commendable point for the hosts.

Former Real Madrid forward Predrag Mijatovic has urged the Spanish giants to move Gareth Bale on if the player wants to go, even if it means missing out on a transfer fee.

The Wales star moved to Spain from Tottenham in 2013 for a reported fee of €91million and has been a key player in the club's success ever since.

But Bale's future was the subject of much discussion during the previous transfer window, with the 30-year-old said to be keen on a move elsewhere.

The attacker's reported wage packet of £350,000 per week made it tough for clubs to do a deal, though, and Bale remained in Madrid, where he has made just seven starts in all competitions this season.

Zinedine Zidane’s squad sit sixth in La Liga having made an underwhelming start to the campaign, including picking up just one win from their opening three Champions League fixtures.

"Madrid wanted to sell him over the summer but they couldn't find a solution," Mijatovic said while appearing on the show El Larguero on Cadena SER.

"A decision needs to be made ... he has three years left on his contract and that complicates things.

"In terms of numbers, I think Bale has already been profitable. If a player of this salary is not motivated, it is better to leave for free and take the salary off.

"It may be worth it to transfer him, even if it is not the money you might think you would get for him. If it is better to let it go free than to keep it? Without any doubt, I believe."

While Mijatovic did say that Bale "loves living here [Spain]", he added that the public perception of the player is not great.

"He seems quite a particular person, which might mean he comes across as being a bit strange," he said.

"But to have someone like that at the club, who they say isn't integrated and has other, more important worries than his own team and his club ... [the perception is] the first thing he thinks about is Wales, then golf and after that, Real Madrid.

"I haven't spoken to him - but that's how he comes across."

Mijatovic scored 44 goals in 117 appearances for Madrid. He netted the only goal of the 1998 UEFA Champions League final, securing victory over Juventus in Amsterdam.

Under-pressure Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has tipped former team-mate Raul to coach the Spanish giants one day.

Zidane took his Madrid side to Istanbul for a Champions League clash with Galatasaray last week following a run of just four victories in 10 outings in all competitions.

A 1-0 LaLiga loss at Real Mallorca had heaped the pressure on Zidane, with Jose Mourinho linked with a high-profile return to the Spanish capital, but they got back to winning ways by beating Gala 1-0 on Tuesday.

Speaking on the 25th anniversary of Raul's debut for the 13-time European champions, Zidane tipped the 42-year-old - who currently coaches Madrid's Castilla side - to follow in his footsteps and earn promotion to the top job in the future.

"I played alongside him and he was an important player for this great club," Zidane said.

"I'm sure he'll coach Real Madrid one day."

Raul is a Madrid legend, the striker scoring 323 goals in 741 appearances for the club.

He won six LaLiga titles with Madrid and three Champions League trophies.

Raul earned 102 caps for Spain in a lengthy career that also took in stints with Schalke, Al Sadd and New York Cosmos.

He was announced as Castilla coach in June and has steered them to three wins from 10 matches in Segunda B - Group 1.

Zinedine Zidane has insisted Gareth Bale is happy at Real Madrid and had the club's permission to visit London on Monday.

Wales international Bale travelled to the English capital two days out from his club's LaLiga game against Leganes, which he will miss through injury.

The former Tottenham winger reportedly used the trip to meet with his agent, Jonathan Barnett, as rumours surrounding his future started to re-circulate.

Bale almost left Madrid for China in the close season amid suggestions of a strained relationship with Zidane, but the Frenchman claimed the pair are on good terms.

"It's good to be asked this because a lot of things have been said," Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday.

"I have to say we have a good relationship. He's here with us, he trains well and works well when he's available. He's not available at the moment because he's got an injury, that's all.

"The problem is, there is a lot of talk about lots of different things. The important thing is that he's ready when he's 100 per cent.

"He's a good player, you know what kind of player he is. At the moment he's not available. You're all trying to create something that isn't there in our relationship.

"He had permission yesterday to go [to London]. It was a personal issue and he went. There's nothing else to say. He went also because he's not available to play.

"I don't think he ever talks about leaving. When he's available he trains and plays. He's played a number of games."

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been mentioned as possible destinations for Bale, along with Shanghai Shenhua.

Their Chinese Super League rivals, Jiangsu Suning, were believed to be in pole position before the transfer fell through in July.

"That was the situation at the time and at the end of the day he stayed. That was better for everyone," Zidane said.

"It doesn't help what's said about him and the club. He's an important player in this squad. It's important for us that he plays and does well.

"The same thing [transfer speculation] will happen in January. If he says he's going to stay, there will be more talk about the summer window. He's happy here."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has announced he is "coming back" to Spain in what could be a hint over his next career move.

The 38-year-old's contract with LA Galaxy expires in December and he has previously talked up a possible return to Europe.

A move to Italy seemed most likely, with a host of Serie A clubs - including Napoli - believed to have showed an interest.

However, the former Barcelona striker posted a short clip on Instagram on Tuesday that may point to a future move to a LaLiga club.

"Hola Espana, guess what? I am coming back," he said.

Ibrahimovic, also touted as a target for South American teams Boca Juniors and Flamengo, spent one season in the Spanish top flight with Barcelona in 2009-2010.

The former Sweden international was on Monday named in the MLS Best XI for 2019 after scoring 30 goals and assisting seven more in 29 regular-season matches.

Despite his prolific form in front of goal, LA Galaxy were eliminated from the MLS play-offs by Los Angeles FC last week.

As well as Barcelona, Ibrahimovic's former clubs include Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter, AC Milan, Ajax and Juventus.

The Gareth Bale transfer saga continues to roll on as he remains frozen out at Spanish giants Real Madrid with seemingly no way back.

The 30-year-old was linked with a move to China in the summer but the move did not materialise and Bale has since continued to find himself out of favour with Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

All is not lost for Bale though with three Premier League clubs battling for the Welshman's signature in January, as he builds towards a possible Euro 2020 campaign with Wales next June.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE TRIO KEEN TO SIGN BALE IN JANUARY

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have all been linked with a January swoop for Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, according to AS.

The three Premier League giants are seeking solutions to solve inconsistent starts to their respective seasons and believe the Welshman could provide a timely boost leading into 2020.

Bale is seen as the perfect fit for a return to Premier League football, having maintained his good reputation from time spent with Southampton and Spurs, but it remains to be seen whether Madrid's asking price or the player's wage demands will be met. 

Marca believe Bale could revisit a potential move to China, however, with the player's agent believed to be in talks with Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter Milan are hopeful of signing Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen on a free transfer this summer, according to The Guardian.

- Sky Italia say Inter are also considering a move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, which would see the Serbian reunite with Antonio Conte.

- Staying in Serie A and Corriere dello Sport claim Roma have rejected the opportunity to sign former Sunderland flop Jack Rodwell on a free transfer.

- Corriere dello Sport also believe Napoli have pulled the plug on a potential move for Salzburg star Erling Braut Haaland as they expect the 19-year-old to join Manchester United in January.

- Manchester City will replace Leroy Sane with Real Sociedad playmaker Mikel Oyarzabal should the Germany winger get his move to Bayern Munich, according to Sky Sports.

- Turkish news outlet Takvim claim Besiktas are keen to cancel their two-year loan agreement with Liverpool for goalkeeper Loris Karius.

Barcelona are responsible for the postponement of the Clasico against Real Madrid, according to the Catalan club's former president Joan Laporta.

The clash between the two LaLiga rivals was scheduled to be held on Saturday but the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) decided to reschedule the fixture due to civil unrest in Catalonia.

Both clubs agreed to push the game back to December 18 and the RFEF accepted the proposal, but LaLiga responded by stating it was considering legal action over the decision.

Laporta, who was the president of Barca between 2003 and 2014, believes the match should have been played as initially planned.

"Yes, [I would've played] the game on Saturday because if Real Madrid wanted to play then I don't see the problem," he said.

"The powers that be wanted to magnify what was happening for political reasons. [Barcelona] were mistaken because they criminalised a movement and put politics ahead of a football match that always has political connotations. It's always been like this.

"They've played a game with the powers that rule football to make people from Barcelona and everyone look bad. LaLiga made a strong move for it not to be played.

"LaLiga had political interests to magnify a certain situation and exaggerate what happened. It's the worst way of getting past what is happening. Barcelona are guilty in this situation."

With neither Barca nor Madrid in action, Granada went top of LaLiga with a 1-0 win over Real Betis.

Pep Guardiola knew Barcelona "would win everything" after seeing Lionel Messi play for the first time.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner developed into a superstar forward during Guardiola's four years in charge at Camp Nou after being crafted into a false-nine.

In an interview with Catalunya Radio, Guardiola explained how Messi made an instant impression by scoring freely during a pre-season tour of Scotland.

"I had already been told by someone from the squad that there was a very good player in the squad," he said. "They told me that he was very young but scored many goals and he was very good.

"I did not know him and one day I saw him and his father at a Nike store. I saw him, he looked small and shy and I thought: 'Is this one as good as they say?'

"We started pre-season in Scotland, we won 6-1, 5-0 and he would score three goals a game for you. I thought that, with him, we would win everything."

Barcelona won 14 trophies with Guardiola as coach, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns.

The Catalan coach left Camp Nou in 2012 and took over at Bayern Munich the following year.

Opening up on his special bond with the players he managed at Barcelona, Guardiola said: "I enjoyed the process of building the team; seeing that the changes we made worked and everything was flowing; how they were brought together, the chemistry, the respect.

"They were a group of friends who went out to dinner often; a group that knew how to move forward in moments of difficulty.

"All this was very good, but the importance of leading such a big club as Barca means that you do not have much time to enjoy it.

"The relationship that we have with those who formed part of that group is insurmountable. There are no championships or world titles that can compensate.

"We gave each other a lot. But there is a moment, due to the natural process of time, that things end."

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde insists any problems within the team will be resolved privately following recent comments made by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The German goalkeeper criticised his side's performance in last week's 2-1 Champions League win at Slavia Prague and stated improvements had to be made.

Slavia ended the match in Prague on top and Ter Stegen suggested he and his team-mates needed to discuss the below-par display among themselves.

Valverde believes too much importance was given to the final stages of the match, however, and wants any issues to remain internal.

"When matches end, everyone leaves with an opinion of what happened on the field," he said at a news conference on Monday. 

"Matches can be seen in many ways, and if we have to solve something, we will solve it with within the club and not publicly. 

"When the game ends, people's impression is of the final minutes and they don't think about the overall game.

"In the first half of the Slavia game we had two or three chances on goal, they attacked and we did as well. In the second half, they got an early goal and we managed to get the result we wanted in the end. 

"They pressed us and that's it. If it had been a 4-1 win, we would be talking like we had the same result as in Eibar [a 3-0 victory]. This is football and it is normal."

Barcelona have not played since that narrow victory in Prague five days ago due to Saturday's scheduled Clasico with Real Madrid being called off as a result of civil unrest in Catalonia.

The reigning LaLiga champions are back in action on Tuesday with a home match against Real Valladolid, who have already taken points off Madrid and Atletico Madrid this term.

"They have had a good run and against the top teams have got some good results," Valverde said. "Taking into account last year's game [a 1-0 win for Barca] which was complicated, this is a game which we have many hopes for after the break this week.

"They have reinforced their style because they are doing well. I expect them to play like they have in recent matches. They will be solid and hard to overcome."

Samuel Umtiti remains a major doubt for the game due to a knee injury, while youngsters Carles Perez, Ansu Fati and Carles Alena are all pushing for inclusion at Camp Nou.

"Umtiti trained apart from the group [on Sunday], though I think it will be difficult for him to participate," he said. "There may be some other changes as well.

"[Perez and Fati] are with the first team and that is, in principle, the idea we have, even though they are able to play with the B team and might at some point play for them.

"Alena hasn't played as much as I thought, and he possibly deserves more game time because he is giving everything in training. There is a lot of competition in midfield and he can be called at any time so he has to be prepared."

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo believes his "healthy rivalry" with Barcelona counterpart Lionel Messi during his time in LaLiga made him a better player.

Both men have won the coveted Ballon d'Or five times and are considered to be two of the greatest players of all time.

Ronaldo spent nine years with Real Madrid prior to joining Juventus in 2018 and Messi recently acknowledged the pair spurred each other on in their quest for individual honours.

The former Manchester United star has echoed those views, telling France Football: "A lot of people said that we fed each other, that being together in Spain made us better.

"That's certainly true. I felt his presence more in Madrid than in Manchester. It was a healthy rivalry. We were the symbols of our clubs.

"It's always nice to be spoken of in a flattering way. It's nice if they say I've been the best, a fantastic player.

"Today, I hear everything they say about me, but when it's all over, at the end of my career, I won't mind because I'll disconnect from everything."

Ronaldo is well known for his dedication to training and insists hard work off the field has helped him to become one of the all-time greats.

"First of all, you need talent, otherwise you won't amount to much," he said. "However, talent is useless without hard work.

"I would never have got to where I am today without the culture of hard work."

Ronaldo recently netted the 700th goal of his career in Portugal's 2-1 defeat to Ukraine, 450 of those being scored during his illustrious spell at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Asked to pick his favourite ever goal, the 34-year-old went with his overhead kick in Madrid's Champions League quarter-final win against current employers Juventus in 2017-18.

"Reaching 700 goals make me proud - it's an impressive total that few players have reached," he said.

"If I had to choose a favourite, I would say the one against Juventus because it was a goal I'd been trying to score for years."

Carlos Vela would fit in perfectly at LaLiga champions Barcelona, according to his Mexico team-mate and Blaugrana youth product Jonathan dos Santos.

Barca reportedly considered a move for the former Arsenal and Real Sociedad forward in January as they sought cover for Luis Suarez.

The short-term switch failed to materialise, however, with the Spanish champions instead signing Kevin-Prince Boateng, who barely featured in his six months at the club.

Should Barca come calling again, though, Dos Santos – whose LA Galaxy side were beaten 5-3 by Vela's Los Angeles FC in the MLS Western Conference semi-final on Friday – believes Vela would have no problems slotting in alongside Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Suarez.

Dos Santos, who played for Barca between 2009 and 2014 after also representing their academy and B team, told reporters: "Vela could fit in at Barcelona. He is a great player with a lot of quality; he has shown it in every team that has been.

"I hope a team like Barcelona is interested in Vela. He would do well surrounded by such excellent players."

Speaking after Friday's game, Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic made headlines by suggesting MLS would be forgotten quickly if he were no longer playing in the league.

Amid rumours the former Sweden international could return to Europe when his contract expires in December, Dos Santos said: "Zlatan is very mysterious. He has not said anything else after the game and if he stays he will help us a lot in the campaign. He is a player of excellent quality."

Diego Simeone says Diego Costa is happy to see Alvaro Morata has found form for Atletico Madrid despite losing his own place in the starting line-up.

Morata came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the 1-0 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday and then got the second in Saturday's 2-0 LaLiga defeat of Athletic Bilbao.

While Morata is seemingly growing in confidence, Costa appears to be struggling for meaningful minutes in 2019-20.

The 31-year-old has scored only once from open play this season and was relegated to the role of substitute for the weekend game at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Simeone, though, has dismissed any suggestion Costa is feeling resentment or frustration at Morata's contrasting form.

"He looks happy that Morata has scored and that he has that consistency in front of goal," the Atleti boss told a news conference on Monday. "They are good team-mates and friends. We keep working with Costa and everyone.

"It's normal for strikers to be worried where goals are coming from. Everyone shows the personality they have on the outside.

"As happens with strikers, [Morata] is much freer, looser as a result of his play."

Atletico can move top of the table with a win at Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday, at least until Barcelona play Real Sociedad a few hours later.

With the Clasico having been postponed last weekend, promoted Granada took the chance to go top after 10 matches by beating Real Betis 1-0.

Simeone thinks the balanced league table at this stage of the season shows how LaLiga teams have begun to improve defensively.

"The numbers from the first 10 matches speak for themselves. Nothing else needs to be said," he added.

"There are very good coaches. In Spain, there have always been good footballers for the associated way of playing and teams have acquired qualities to become better defensively. We see that in a lot of teams."

Rumours linking Paul Pogba to Real Madrid are refusing to go away.

Pogba – nursing an ankle injury which is set to keep him sidelined until December – wanted to leave Manchester United in the previous transfer window but a move did not materialise.

With the January window approaching, Madrid are eyeing the French star again.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PLOTTING POGBA PURCHASE

Real Madrid are preparing to make a January bid for Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to OK Diario.

Pogba was wanted by Madrid and former club Juventus in the previous window as he eyed an Old Trafford exit, yet United were unwilling to part with their prized asset.

But with Pogba reportedly set to make it clear he will not renew his United contract beyond 2021, Madrid are lining up a €150million (£129.5m) offer.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another Frenchman is also reportedly high on Madrid's radar. AS reports the Spanish powerhouse are hoping to take advantage of a tense relationship between Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and head coach Thomas Tuchel. Madrid are determined to lure Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season.

- Linked with Madrid and LaLiga champions Barcelona, in-demand Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is also wanted by Premier League holders Manchester City. Gazzetta dello Sport claims City are set to make an approach for the Spain international.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona are interested in Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca after his agent previously revealed the club's interest in Martinez. Now, Ernesto Valverde's side are eyeing the in-form marksman – who has also reportedly attracted the attention of Manchester United – as Inter pursue Barca pair Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal.

United are prepared to meet Borussia Dortmund's demands for England sensation Jadon Sancho, reports the Mirror. Sancho has also been linked to Liverpool and Madrid.

Stefano Sensi's exploits at Inter have not gone unnoticed. On loan from Sassuolo with the option to buy, Sport says there is already contact between Barca, Inter and the player's agent.

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