Lionel Messi scores for the first time since dramatic U-turn to stay at Barcelona as wantaway Argentine hits impressive brace in pre-season friendly against Girona
- Lionel Messi proved his contract saga is firmly behind him as he netted a brace
- Two goals from outside the area, one left foot, one right, helped down Girona
- They are the first goals Messi has scored since agreeing to remain at the club
- Philippe Coutinho had the enviable task of scoring the opener with a tap-in
Any fears Lionel Messi’s mind may be elsewhere this season, having begrudgingly agreed to remain at the club this summer, were quashed with a stunning brace against Girona.
Messi had pushed hard for a move to Manchester City, a reunion with his old boss Pep Guardiola, only for the club board and LaLiga to stand firm on his €700million (£630m) release clause.
He announced he is to stay for the season, retained the captaincy in the squad and showed on Wednesday night he is not distracted at all on the pitch with two impressive outside-of-the-box strikes at the Johan Cruyff Stadium.
Lionel Messi (right) put on another masterclass as he scored twice in a friendly against Girona
His first came with his right foot before his second, on his left foot, pushed them 3-1 ahead
They were the first strikes Messi has scored since he demanded to leave the club this summer
Messi’s burofax to the club sent shockwaves through the world of sport as he demanded to be allowed to leave the club – in his mind, leave for nothing.
That did not transpire and while he initially boycotted pre-season testing and then training in a bid to ramp up pressure, the club held firm and Messi eventually conceded he would play a part in Ronald Koeman’s time in charge.
And he was back to old ways in Barcelona’s second pre-season friendly with a masterclass performance.
The Argentine was as tricky as ever as he avoided a swarm of Girona defenders marking him
Philippe Coutinho, starting in a three-man attack behind Antoine Griezmann, scored the opening goal after Messi produced aa brilliant through ball to pick out Trincao who had the task of pulling it back for Coutinho to tap-in.
Messi then took the game over. His first was a brilliant piece of individual skill.
The Barcelona captain received the ball 25 yards out, dropped his shoulder to let the ball run across to his right foot and he fired into the far corner, scoring with the help of the post.
His second had a degree of fortune attached to it with a major deflection helping his left-footed strike deceive the Girona goalkeeper who was left stranded by the re-direction following thee deflection.
Koeman had seen enough from his star man on the hour, replacing him with Ousmane Dembele, and the pair shook hands as Messi returned to the bench, a clear sign the relationship between them is thawing out.
A trademark free-kick almost found the top corner before he did manage to grab his goals
Withdrawn after an hour, Messi (left) shook hands with new boss Ronald Koeman (right)
It was a night littered with positives for Koeman, with Trincao, Coutinho and Messi all impressing in the forward line.
There will be mild irritation from the fact that Girona scored within 60 seconds of the second half after midfielder Samuel Saiz was given far too much time to score past Neto.
But aside from a concentration error at the restart it was perfect preparation for Messi and the rest of the squad as attention turns to their final pre-season game against Elche.
Their LaLiga campaign gets underway on September 27 at home against Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
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