Barcelona captain Lionel Messi was in a prolific mood as his side crushed Eibar 5-0 at home in La Liga on Saturday, scoring four goals to placate supporters who began the game by showing their discontent with president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
The win took Barca back to the top of La Liga on 55 points, two ahead of Real Madrid whic visits Levante later on Saturday.
Messi had not scored in his previous four games but put the Spanish champion ahead in the 14th minute by dancing and barging his way past three players to slot home for the opener.
He doubled the lead in the 37th with an equally impressive strike before completing his treble moments later and netted late in the second half for his fourth goal before Arthur Melo completed the drubbing with a tap-in.
The Argentine’s goals cheered fans who began the match waving handkerchiefs and calling for Bartomeu to resign after the club was embroiled in a scandal involving a firm hired to monitor coverage of the team on social media.
Messi indicated he was unhappy with those who run Barca in an interview with newspaper Mundo Deportivo on Friday in which he defended his recent outburst against sporting director Eric Abidal and said the team had faced “problem after problem”.
He had also questioned the strength of the Barcelona side, who he claimed were not strong enough at the moment to challenge for the Champions League.
Barca looked shaky in the early stages against Eibar and conceded a goal that was quickly ruled offside but it soon found its feet, led by Messi who was at his unplayable best.
After using a combination of strength and skill to score the first goal, he used his pace to dash past the Eibar defence down the left and lash the ball into the far bottom corner.
Messi then looked to tee up Antoine Griezmann but the French forward lost control of the ball and the Argentine cleaned up by tapping in the third goal.
Barca eased off for most of the second half but Messi showed no mercy when he received a pass from Arthur inside the area, toying with Eibar’s desperate defenders and goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic before walking the ball into the net for his fourth.
New signing Martin Braithwaite came off the bench to make his Barca debut after an unexpected move from league struggler Leganes and the Denmark striker quickly made an impact by drilling a shot at Dmitrovic which Arthur buried on the rebound.