In the end, it is always about Lionel Messi. Barcelona’s new captain scored a hat-trick to sink PSV Eindhoven 4-0 in their opening Uefa Champions League game and Messi wrote the script as he so often does.
He has scored more Champions League goals than Manchester City, more hat-tricks than anyone else in the competition and 48 in his career.
PSV, the Netherlands’ best side, were not even that bad and deserved their applause from their 2,000 travelling fans at the end.
Their problem was Messi was so spellbindingly magnificent, even if his side took some time to get going – fortunate for the thousands of Barca fans who were not in the stadium at kick-off time which was two hours earlier than Catalans are used to for night games.
Uefa has staggered the kick-offs in its leading competition for the first time this season with the aim of reaching a wider television audience. It may work.
But the earlier kick-offs clearly do not suit all the various cultures across Europe, though the giant old stadium did fill out as the game went on and the Catalans announced an attendance of 73,462.
PSV were not unattractive opposition. Long gone are the days when Dutchman Louis van Gaal, as Barca manager, would plunder their ranks for the finest Dutch players, but they are a successful club who keep being crowned domestic champions despite operating on a budget €20 million (Dh85.7m) smaller than Ajax Amsterdam.
Phillip Cocu, formerly of Barca and PSV as a player, left the Dutch side after three years as manager in the close season to try his luck at Turkish giants Fenerbahce. He was replaced by Mark van Bommel, also formerly a player with Barca and PSV.
He was still at the World Cup finals as Australia’s assistant manager when PSV returned for pre-season training this season, but his coaches set out a plan for PSV to train how Van Bommel wanted them to – with aggression, speed, organisation and the win-at-all-costs mentality which he had as a player.
PSV have won all their five domestic league games so far, scoring 21 and conceding three. They won their championship but they had not played a team of Barca’s quality and wearing an all-white kit like Real Madrid will not have done them any favours.
Given they had drawn two and lost four of their previous six Champions League group games against inferior opposition to Barca, avoiding defeat was improbable.
PSV were undone by magic half an hour into each half. The first was a left footed free-kick from Messi which spun and curled over the opposition wall and beyond Jeroen Zoet at full stretch.
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“A lot of the time when we get a free-kick we are already thinking about the celebration,” his teammate Ivan Raktic said.
“The foul before the free-kick was very important in deciding the game,” Van Bommel said. “I don’t think it was a foul. But we should have stopped Dembele before he got that far.”
“Leo is the best in the world. But the 4-0 was too much today. We are still developing.
"But I think no team would be capable of stopping Barcelona today. Leo put that in the corner but before that things were going well.
"You can lose here; there is no shame in that. We have the youngest players and we are still on the right road. They are far ahead of us at the moment.”
Once Barca got their second, an Ousmane Dembele wonder goal from outside the area after losing two defenders with 16 minutes to play, PSV were shot. Within two minutes, it was 3-0 thanks to a Messi half-volley from a high Rakitic pass.
Van Bommel had seen enough, bringing on a substitute to try and stop three becoming four, five or six. PSV were better than that, but there was more damage coming even though Barca were down to 10 men after Samuel Umtiti was sent off for a second yellow on 79 minutes.
Messi, who has scored six in seven games this season, was not finished, making it 4-0 after 87 minutes, guiding a Luis Suarez pass in from 12 yards out, another great goal on another great night for the greatest player of all time.
“He’s so decisive,” Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde said. “He’s always been that way.
"It is fortunate for us. It becomes routine.”