We are edging closer to the release of Football Manager 2020 on November 19, meaning new elements and features of the game are seeing the light of day.

That also means talk of those precious 'wonderkids' is starting, as managers look to get a head start on which young talents to snap up early instead of forking out massive sums for the same kids a few years down the line.

A player's potential is never a guarantee of future success. Injuries, a lack of faith from the manager or poor mentality can cause havoc with so-called 'hot prospects'.

Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz are all 'wonderkid' certainties, but only a select few clubs will ever be able to afford them.

But, with the right guidance, the following lesser-known players could prove to be similarly smart acquisitions and cost significantly less...

Dillon Hoogewerf - Manchester United

A 16-year-old forward, Hoogewerf was one of the hottest prospects in Ajax's academy before Manchester United snapped him up ahead of this season. A silky dribbler and all-round attacking threat, he promises to be a talent would-be United bosses will want to focus on the development of. On the flipside, youngsters don't always reach their potential at the biggest clubs, meaning he might prove an interesting option to smaller sides… if you're patient.

Pedrinho - Corinthians

The latest - after Vinicius and Rodrygo - in a long line of Brazilian talents to be dubbed the 'next Neymar', Pedrinho looks destined for the top. An outrageously skilful attacker who usually plays out wide for Corinthians, the 21-year-old likes to come in off the right flank and on to his left foot, as he relishes a shot after beating his man. Comparisons with Arjen Robben are understandable, but the quicker you make a move, the less you'll have to stump up.

Sandro Tonali - Brescia

Given Tonali now has a full season of professional football under his belt, he's likely to be one of the hardest to attain from this list. Nevertheless, he is still at Brescia despite links with the big Italian clubs, therefore making him a tantalising proposition if you've got a bit of a budget to play with. Dubbed the 'next Andrea Pirlo', Tonali is a deep-lying midfielder who possesses a brilliant range of passing. He will also be among the very best teenagers right at the start of the game.

Antonio Marin - Dinamo Zagreb

A favourite of many on FM19 due to his immense potential and relatively low cost, left-winger Marin should still be a hot prospect and fairly attainable. He made seven league appearances for Dinamo last season, most of them coming in the final few months of the campaign, so his fee is unlikely to have rocketed just yet. Securing the 18-year-old in a deal that sees him remain in Croatia on loan for a season could be wise for his development, particularly if Dani Olmo is sold in the first few months of the game.

Devyne Rensch - Ajax

As you might expect from an Ajax academy product, Rensch is calm and composed in possession and a fine reader of the game from centre-back. He has already signed professional terms despite being only 16, so you won't be able to poach him like United have done with Hoogewerf, but he certainly shouldn't be considered unattainable. Similarly, Perr Schuurs is another interesting option at centre-back, though at 19 and now exposed to first-team football with the Dutch champions, he could be trickier to acquire.

Julian Aude - Lanus

Although Argentinian football can truly be a treasure trove of promising talent, work permits are often an issue for many players, particularly if they're young. But with Aude you shouldn't have such problems, as the 16-year-old also has Italian citizenship. The Lanus academy product has impressed with Argentina's youth sides due to his remarkable technical wizardry for a full-back, while he's also a tenacious competitor. Obviously, his age makes Aude a gamble, but he'll be affordable for many and there's little doubt about his potential, it's just a case of nurturing him.

Bryan Gil - Sevilla

The production line that nurtured Jesus Navas, Antonio Puerta, Sergio Ramos and Jose Antonio Reyes has gone a little stagnant in recent years, but Bryan arrived on the scene last term and made 11 substitute appearances in LaLiga, making an impact on the left flank in most - if not all - of them. Unless you want him on loan, he'll be difficult to sign initially for smaller clubs, but if he does become a realistic target at any point, he will provide a strong option as an out-and-out, old-fashioned left winger.

Odin Thiago Holm - Valerenga

A technically gifted central midfielder, Holm, 16, is yet to make a splash in the Valerenga first team. However, he is very highly rated in Norway, with his ability on the ball and eye for a pass drawing comparisons – perhaps predictable, given his name – with Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara. Considering his relative unknown status and the fact he is not playing in one of the more fashionable leagues, Holm would likely be a cheap, low-risk purchase that could really pay dividends down the line for managers aiming for a long stay.

Fernando Ovelar - Cerro Porteno

It's still to be confirmed if Ovelar will be on the game, as he is only 15. However, he has already made nine appearances for Cerro Porteno in Paraguay and scored his first goal in November 2018 when he was just 14, making him the Paraguayan Primera Division's youngest scorer and appearance maker. Although it's still early days in his career, he's a skilful and gifted forward, and if you fancy yourself as a manager adept at bringing youth talents through to the first team, he could be a shrewd investment.

Ronaldo Camara - Benfica

Already a regular for Benfica's Under-19s despite being 16, Camara is a potential diamond. A well-rounded attacking midfielder, the Guinea-Bissau native is not your average playmaker. He has a fine range of passing and can certainly dribble, but he is also a tireless worker and loves to tackle. Benfica are famous for selling cheaply acquired talents for huge sums and Camara looks to be of the same ilk… unless you can get him early.

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham may have been humiliated 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but he is a target for the German giants.

With Niko Kovac overseeing an inconsistent start to the season in Munich, Bayern are reportedly willing to move on from the former Eintracht Frankfurt boss.

That could open the door for Pochettino, whose Tottenham have struggled to reach the heights of last season following their memorable run to the Champions League final.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN CONSIDER POCH

Bayern Munich are considering Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino as a replacement for Niko Kovac, according to Sport1.

Kovac has found himself under increasing criticism following Bayern's inconsistent start to the season.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag – who previously worked with Bayern's reserve team – has also been linked, but sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has reportedly identified Pochettino as the man to replace Kovac should he depart.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Atletico Madrid are eyeing Napoli's Faouzi Ghoulam. The left-back is out of favour and set to leave the Serie A outfit in January.

- Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are keen to sign Borussia Dortmund's Lukasz Piszczek and Juventus midfielder Emre Can, claims Soccerlink. Piszczek's contract expires at the end of the season, while Can is reportedly eager to leave after being left out of Juve's Champions League squad.

- Sport Bild says Liverpool have joined the race to sign Valencia sensation Ferran Torres. The 19-year-old winger has attracted interest from Dortmund and Barcelona.

Arkadiusz Milik has agreed a contract extension with Napoli, reports Calciomercato. The Poland international's current deal runs out in 2021.

- Former AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso is favourite to take charge of Udinese. It comes as Sky Sport Italia, Tuttomercatoweb and La Gazzetta dello Sport claim Igor Tudor's position is being considered after consecutive 7-1 and 4-0 routs in Serie A.

Dortmund have set their sights on Hertha Berlin's Javairo Dilrosun, according to Bild. As the German side reportedly prepare for life without Jadon Sancho amid ongoing links to Manchester United, former Manchester City youth-team player Dilrosun is on their radar.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique revealed the team offered to change their salaries so Neymar could return to the LaLiga champions.

Neymar attempted to engineer a return to Barca during the previous transfer window, just two years after his world-record €222million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

However, a deal did not materialise with PSG despite Barca's efforts to bring Brazil international star Neymar back to Camp Nou.

Pique said he and his team-mates tried to help Neymar return to the Spanish giants amid the constraints of Financial Fair Play, telling Cadena Ser program El Larguero: "We didn't stump up money.

"What we said to the president was whether we could change our contracts because we knew there was a Financial Fair Play issue... so we said to the president, rather than earn something in year one, we could earn it in year two or three or four.

"At the end of the day we want to go along with what the club is doing and if we can help the club, in this case avoiding a financial fair problem, we've got no problem in doing that.

"Rather than reducing our salary it was about finding a formula so that if the club wanted to sign Neymar they could. At the time they thought it was a good idea, but then other problems cropped up."

Asked if Neymar could come back to Barca, Pique added: "In football anything can happen and every year just makes that clearer. We told Neymar, 'you're going to a golden prison'. But in football things can happen and you find the door open."

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane commended an inspirational display from Karim Benzema in Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of Leganes, highlighting how the forward offers much more than just goals.

Benzema has enjoyed a fine start to the season, picking up where he left off last term and he took his tally to seven in LaLiga against Leganes.

But that goal – a second-half penalty – was only part of the story, as the Frenchman set up Rodrygo Goes and then Toni Kroos in the first eight minutes.

As such, he moved on to 10 goal involvements for the season, more than any other player in LaLiga and Zidane was unsurprisingly delighted.

"Karim as always, doesn't change much," Zidane told reporters. "It's important that he scores because he needs that as the number nine of Madrid.

"But he contributes much more than goals and does better for others. I am happy with his performance."

Luka Jovic rounded off the scoring late on with his first goal for the club in 10 matches, heading in from Dani Carvajal's cross.

Zidane was pleased for him after a difficult start to life at the Santiago Bernabeu, while he also applauded Rodrygo's improvement.

"The truth is I am happy for both of them," Zidane added. "Rodrygo has personality and is getting better in the team.

"And Luka is happy because he needed that [goal] and, although he does not play much, it's important [to make an impact] when he has minutes replacing Karim."

Karim Benzema had a hand in three goals as he inspired Real Madrid to a 5-0 win over Leganes in LaLiga on Wednesday.

With last weekend's scheduled Clasico against Barcelona postponed due to political tension in Catalonia, Madrid appeared to have fun on their return to action as they toyed with rock-bottom Leganes, who had no answer to the classy Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Frenchman was central to a brutal Madrid start that saw them lead 2-0 within eight minutes – Benzema setting up Rodrygo Goes and Toni Kroos, before Sergio Ramos got in on the act from the spot.

Benzema eventually got a deserved goal of his own from 12 yards, taking him to seven for the season, and Luka Jovic finally got his first goal for the club in stoppage time as Los Blancos moved up to second – behind Barcelona – in the table.

Madrid looked in the mood right from the start and quickly charged into their two-goal lead, as Benzema teed up Rodrygo for a straightforward finish, before Kroos' deft flick from the striker's low cross left Juan Soriano with no chance.

Ramos increased the deficit in the 24th minute with a penalty, though he needed two opportunities as Soriano – who conceded the spot-kick for fouling Eden Hazard – was penalised via VAR for coming off his line when saving the Madrid captain's first attempt.

Benzema went agonisingly close to a fine goal just past the hour when his 25-yard strike came back off Soriano's left-hand post.

But Soriano had no such luck soon after when Benzema slammed home a cool penalty, won by Luka Modric after a clumsy tackle by Kenneth Omeruo.

Jovic wrapped up an emphatic victory late on, meeting Dani Carvajal's cross with a fine header to get off the mark for Madrid in his 10th outing.

 

What does it mean? Normal service restored in LaLiga

When promoted Granada sat top of the table at the weekend, there was certainly a feeling of refreshing unpredictability in LaLiga.

But, with Barca demolishing Real Valladolid on Tuesday and Madrid making light work of Leganes, the traditional heavyweights lead the way again at the summit.

Benzema bullies Leganes' backline

What a renaissance Benzema is enjoying. He has always been a very good link-up striker, providing plenty of assists across his Madrid career, but his display on Wednesday was quintessential Benzema. He worked selflessly and laid on two assists in a fine performance, capping it off with a well-taken penalty.

A miserable day for Omeruo

It was a day to forget for many of Leganes' back five, but Omeruo was particularly hapless, struggling to pick up Benzema several times and then tripping Modric for the second penalty.

What's next?

Madrid are at home again on Saturday as Real Betis are the visitors. On Sunday, Leganes host fellow strugglers Eibar, as they look to close the gap to the teams above them.

Kylian Mbappe is the star attraction of the latest Team of the Week on FIFA Ultimate Team after he scored twice for Paris Saint-Germain in the 4-0 Classique win over Marseille on Sunday.

Although the Frenchman has had an injury-hit start to the season, he has still managed to net eight goals in nine appearances across all competitions, with PSG looking sharp.

He is not joined in the team by Jamie Vardy, however. The striker scored a hat-trick as Leicester City equalled the record for the biggest Premier League win when they demolished Southampton 9-0 on Friday.

Instead of the English forward, his Leicester team-mate Ayoze Perez – who also netted a treble – gets the nod, though he only takes a place among the substitutes, with Ben Chilwell the only Foxes star in the starting XI.

Below, we have the full squad of in-form cards that are now up for grabs online.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Matz Sels (Strasbourg) – 82

CB: Domagoj Vida (Besiktas) – 83

CB: Nicolas Nkoulou (Torino) – 84

LB: Ben Chilwell (Leicester City) – 82

RM: Karim Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen) – 84

CM: Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid) – 86

CDM: Fabinho (Liverpool) – 86

LW: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) – 90

CAM: Yusuf Yazici (Lille) – 82

ST: Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC) – 85

ST: Josip Ilicic (Atalanta) – 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Gabriel (Lecce) – 81

CB: Bernardo Espinosa (Espanyol) – 81

LM: Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) – 82

CAM: Calvin Stengs (AZ) – 81

RW: Ayoze Perez (Leicester City) – 82

ST: Karl Toko-Ekambi (Villarreal) – 82

ST: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) – 82

RESERVES

CAM: Zelimkhan Bakaev (Spartak Moscow) – 78

RM: Maicol Balanta (Independiente Santa Fe) – 75

LM: Amahl Pellegrino (Kristiansund) – 72

ST: Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba (Al Ain) – 79

ST: Eoin Doyle (Swindon Town) – 73

Sergio Ramos' late goal in Real Madrid's Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid in 2014 may have altered the history of European football, according to Luka Modric.

Madrid trailed to Diego Godin's opener when Ramos forced extra time with a dramatic 93rd-minute header at Estadio da Luz.

Gareth Bale put Carlo Ancelotti's side in front and further goals followed from Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo to seal a 4-1 victory in Lisbon. 

It was Madrid's 10th European Cup - known as 'La Decima' - but their first in 12 years after a series of near misses.

The Spanish giants have since added three more Champions Leagues to their collection, but Modric is unsure whether it would have been possible if not for Ramos' famous goal.

"It's difficult to make such judgements. I don't know," he told Club del Deportista. "It may be the case that this goal changed the history of European football. Real Madrid had already won a lot of trophies, but they hadn't lifted the Champions League trophy for 12 years. 

"This goal changed something, the mentality changed. From that moment we started to be very strong in Europe and teams were afraid of us again. That shows how important mentality is in football. 

"People had spent 12 years talking about La Decima and it became a mental thing. [Jose] Mourinho went to three semi-finals and it was hard to overcome this mental barrier.

"When we reached the final and to win it with that goal, it still gives me goosebumps, we showed such strong character and never gave up."

Modric broke Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or stranglehold by winning football's most prestigious individual accolade in 2018.

It capped a memorable year that saw him win his third successive Champions League with Madrid and help Croatia to a first World Cup final, where they were beaten by France.

"That was a recognition of my entire career, but a very special year in particular," Modric said of winning the award. 

"I was lucky enough to win the Champions League again, which isn't easy, and I also reached the World Cup final with a country like Croatia, which for us is something that words just can't describe. 

"I don't like to talk about myself, but I think that, in the individual sense, I played a very good season and the footballing people have recognised that. It's no coincidence when so many people vote for you."

Luka Modric insists friend and team-mate Gareth Bale fits in well at Real Madrid and enjoys being at the club.

Rumours linking the Wales international with a move to the Chinese Super League have resurfaced as the January transfer window draws nearer.

He almost left for Jiangsu Suning during the close season, only for Madrid to reportedly cancel the deal at the last minute.

Zinedine Zidane tried to force him out amid suggestions Bale has failed to embrace Spanish culture but, speaking ahead of Wednesday's LaLiga game against Leganes, the head coach claimed his winger is still happy at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Star midfielder Modric, who swapped Tottenham for Madrid a year before Bale, holds the same view.

"Gareth and I are very similar. We are shy and sometimes we don't talk much," Modric told Club del Deportista.

"Gareth speaks and understands Spanish, and there is a good atmosphere and he gets along very well with his team-mates and is delighted to enjoy Madrid and the best club in the world.

"Of course, everyone enjoys their own way and you have to respect their way of being. He is exemplary with his behaviour. I get along very well with him."

Fresh speculation surrounding Bale's future arose following his meeting with agent Jonathan Barnett in London on Monday.

Zidane said the trip was "personal reasons" and that Madrid knew of his plans.

Approached for comment by a Spanish broadcaster, Barnett added that Bale is completely content at the club.

"Gareth Bale is delighted to play for Real Madrid," he told Deportes Cuatro.

Bale, 30, has not featured for Los Blancos since suffering an injury – initially suspected to be cramp – while playing for Wales against Modric's Croatia on October 13.

Juventus are not resting on their laurels.

Despite their domestic dominance, Juve are craving European glory as they eye a first Champions League crown since 1995.

So much so that they have three Premier League stars on their mind.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE WATCH SALAH, SON & ERIKSEN

Juventus scouts watched Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen during Liverpool's Premier League clash with Tottenham, according to Tuttosport.

Seeking a ninth successive Scudetto, Serie A champions Juve are prepared to spend heavily in pursuit of Champions League glory.

With money no obstacle as they reap the benefits of Cristiano Ronaldo's presence, Liverpool star Salah and Tottenham duo Son and Eriksen are reportedly on Juve's list.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Jose Mourinho wants to become the first manager to win major trophies with three English clubs as the former Manchester United boss is linked to Arsenal. Gunners head coach Unai Emery is under pressure at the Emirates Stadium amid growing fan frustration.

Manchester United are hopeful of completing a deal for Lyon striker Moussa Dembele in January, reports Soccerlink. With Dembele's future uncertain, Lyon are lining up Chelsea's Olivier Giroud.

- Staying at Old Trafford and United's name has again been thrown into the mix for Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali. The 19-year-old Italy international is fast becoming one of the most sought-after players in Europe, attracting interest from Juventus, Manchester City and Inter. Now, The Suns says United are weigning up a £40million move for Tonali after sending scouts to watch him once more.

- Calciomercato claims Napoli are considering a January move for Benfica full-back Alejandro Grimaldo. The 24-year-old Spaniard has been linked to Arsenal, Tottenham and Barcelona.

Newcastle United are close to agreeing a deal to sign Strasbourg's Ibrahima Sissoko. The 21-year-old French midfielder is poised to make the switch when the transfer window opens in January.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said he has "run out of words" to describe Lionel Messi after the captain inspired a 5-1 rout of Real Valladolid.

Messi produced a masterclass with a brace and two assists as defending champions Barca moved top of the LaLiga table on Tuesday.

Barca captain Messi set up Arturo Vidal with an exquisite pass before scoring a stunning free-kick – the 50th of his career for club and Argentina – prior to half-time at Camp Nou.

Messi netted his second of the match after the interval and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner teed up team-mate Luis Suarez as Barca climbed above Granada and Atletico Madrid atop the summit.

"What else can be said about him? I've run out of words," Valverde told reporters. "We always know that he will appear, whatever the match.

"His talent isn't comparable to anything; the reality is that every time he touches the ball, something special happens. I just don't know what to say."

Valverde added: "He is getting closer to his best form [after injury], when Leo gets it something bad will happen to the rival.

"He has that talent that nobody has, he escapes anyone and it is not only that he can make an individual play but he does things that nobody sees.

"It happens to me sometimes, he does things that are not seen even from the crowd, every day is better."

Although Clement Lenglet's second-minute opener was fortuitously cancelled out by Valladolid's Kiko Olivas 13 minutes later, Messi was able to inspire Barca against the visitors.

Barca are two points clear of Granada and Atletico Madrid – the latter of whom have played an extra match due to the postponement of El Clasico last weekend – after 10 games.

"We value very much what we do," Valverde added. "We have in memory what we have done but we want to look forward and win this league.

"It is not easy to take the games forward, Valladolid tied against Atletico and Real Madrid and it is not easy to beat them."

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal said superstar captain Lionel Messi is "from another planet" after producing a masterclass performance against Real Valladolid.

Messi was at his trademark best with a brace and two assists as LaLiga champions Barca routed Valladolid 5-1 at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Argentina international Messi set up Vidal with an exquisite pass before scoring a stunning free-kick – the 50th of his career for club and country – prior to half-time.

Messi netted his second of the match after the break and teed up Luis Suarez as Barca moved top of the table.

"It makes a difference with Leo giving all his quality. When he's like this, the team feels it," Vidal told Movistar Plus.

"We see him every day, but he surprises us every day. Leo is from another planet. 

"We are happy, we won and the team felt good. I have no words to talk about Leo. You have to take advantage of it and make the most of him."

Although Clement Lenglet's second-minute opener was fortuitously cancelled out by Valladolid's Kiko Olivas 13 minutes later, Messi was able to inspire Barca against the visitors.

Barca are two points clear of Granada and Atletico Madrid – the latter of whom have played an extra match due to the postponement of El Clasico last weekend – after 10 games.

"These victories help you, but you have to keep improving," Vidal, who has been linked to Serie A outfit Inter, added. "The game against Slavia [Prague in the Champions League] is not what we know how to do. Hopefully it won't happen to us from now on."

Alvaro Morata insists he is not focusing on his own goalscoring exploits after Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Deportivo Alaves, stating he would just play tennis if individual exploits were important to him.

Atletico produced another underwhelming performance at Mendizorroza on Tuesday but looked to have escaped with all three points when Morata struck 20 minutes from time.

Lucas Perez then scored in style late on with a curling effort, denying Atletico the chance to go top of LaLiga for a few hours.

Morata's effort made it three goals in as many outings for the striker, though his personal form is not his top priority.

"If I worried about myself I would play tennis. I'm as disappointed as everyone else is in the locker room," the Spain international told reporters.

"We had chances and we did not take advantage of them. For us, two points escaped us, but we also have to see the rest of the teams and what they will do on a trip as difficult as this one."

Morata missed a good opportunity to make it 2-0 shortly before Perez's equaliser and coach Diego Simeone believes it would have been game over had Fernando Pacheco not made the save.

"The goalkeeper made a great stop, the ball was not going wide of the goal," Simeone added.

"Alvaro was fine and the goalkeeper kept Alaves in the game because the match was over with the second goal."

Simeone also pointed to Atletico's poor first-half display as a major contributor to failing to claim the win.

"In the first half Alaves were better, they were more intense, more aggressive, pressing well and controlling the second ball," he said.

"Overall, Alaves played a great game in the first half, we did it in the second half. We played well, we had situations, we pressed higher, we played between the lines.

"If we keep playing as in the second half and clearly understand what we did in the first half, we will have done well.

"It's clear that if a team doesn't start well in the first half, it's always the responsibility of the coach, because they were not excited and pumped to do well."

With Barca's 5-1 win over Real Valladolid, Atletico Madrid sit third in LaLiga. Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Villarreal could all move above them across Wednesday and Thursday.

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.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.