Messi: even when absent he is Barça's reference point
In a match with such a clear scoreline, interestingly Barcelona did not need Messi. In saying that, the Argentinian showed enough signs that he sees the game through a different lens. During the first half, Messi often took himself away from the play so as to get involved at its conclusion. In moves towards goal (aside from those where Barça created danger) he slowed down on approach to the penalty area, while others sped up to attack or defend. In the first hour he participated more than normal in tactical and individual defensive plays, finding success by accelerating towards the one carrying the ball, often leaving them stunned and confused. The fact that he does the opposite to other players suggests that he either has a superior intelligence or he is better able to keep his emotions under wraps. His heart beats a little slower, and calmly he is able to envision what is going to happen on the field.
Yesterday Messi didn't find it easy to affect the play and, at times, he seemed to disappear. He also understands that there are others with more spark, is more at ease in the game, preferring to make things happen via the feet of his teammates, while he attracts opponents towards him. Yesterday he gave way to an erratic and also brilliant Dembélé, a player who throws handfuls of coins into the air, some of which land heads up. But even that passivity is confusing for his rivals, as we saw in the second half. Casemiro awaited Messi's arrival and, because of that, decided not to move onto the Frenchman, the real danger in the play. We saw little of Messi in that second period, other than when he ceded penalty duties to Luis Suárez and in the moments where he controlled the rhythm of the team, already relaxed with a three-goal lead. Even when he is absent, he remains the reference point for his teammates.