Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is enjoying being on the right side of Lionel Messi masterclasses after seeing his star man inspire a comprehensive 3-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League.
Valverde replaced Luis Enrique in the Camp Nou hotseat for this season, having led Espanyol, Villarreal, Valencia and Athletic Bilbao against the Catalan giants over the past decade.
Messi has been a majestic constant for Barca during that period and he was at his brilliant best in Tuesday’s Group D opener, scoring on the stroke of half-time and completing a fabulous brace after creating the second for Ivan Rakitic.
It was a virtuoso display on the back of a hat-trick in Saturday’s 5-0 derby triumph against Espanyol and one to leave Valverde purring.
“With Leo Messi, the feeling you have is that something good will always happen for us,” he told reporters.
“I suffered a lot when I had to face him as a coach but now I get to enjoy him. He’s involved in everything.
“The first goal just before the break changed everything. We were about to finish the first half and we had some problem because the rival was making it difficult for us.
“Nobody saw the gap and he found it, but I emphasise the involvement of Messi from all points of view.
“He is one of the best players in the history of the club, it is normal to talk about him. He also has a great tactical understanding.”
A player who will one day hope to be spoken of so loftily is Barcelona’s record signing Ousmane Dembele, who showed flashes of inspiration but sometimes erred in the final pass on a mixed full debut.
“It is clear that he still has to improve although he did show good moments,” Valverde said.
“He has worked well but we have to go little by little. We’re going forward.”
Beating the team that eliminated Barcelona in last season’s quarter-finals continued a fine start to life at Camp Nou for Valverde, with his team having won three out of three in LaLiga without conceding on the back of the Supercopa de Espana reverse against Real Madrid.
“There’s a lot still to do but it was an important win,” he added. “It’s essential to win games to get the fans on our side.”
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