'I don't know how to label him' – Valverde lost for words following Messi's latest showing

The Argentine inspired Barcelona to a 5-0 thrashing of Levante, a game they lost 5-4 towards the end of last season

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde was delighted to leave Levante with an emphatic 5-0 win given his side’s travails in the same game last season.

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick and assisted goals for Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique as La Liga’s leaders restored their three-point cushion at the top on Sunday.

Messi was rested for this fixture in May, in which Barca were beaten 5-4 and saw their hopes of going an entire league campaign without defeat dashed.

And Valverde was thrilled to earn some measure of revenge against a Levante side who are only three points outside the top five after 16 games.

“I’m happy because we conceded five here last year and that was after a whole season without losing, and it was only a few months ago,” he told a news conference.

“They’re having a great season and they showed that when they came out against us. I’m leaving here particularly satisfied.”

Messi’s display left Valverde struggling to find the right words, the 31-year-old having become the first player in Europe’s top-five leagues this season to reach double figures for goals and assists.

“I don’t know how to label him. I don’t know how to answer the most repeated question,” he said.

“He’s the one who makes us play, who gives us amazing goals … we just have to enjoy him.”

Barca had looked a little uncertain before Suarez’s opener 35 minutes in, with Valverde forced to reshuffle his side into a makeshift 3-5-2 after Nelson Semedo was ruled out with injury at the last minute.

“The line-up was conditioned by Semedo,” he admitted. “It was a solution that was determined by injuries.

“We thought Nelson was going to play. They are used to a quick counter-attack and we had to control those situations. It cost us in the middle of the pitch, but in the second half we had total control.”

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