Messi shatters record as Barca end season with big win

Business as usual
From right: Lionel Messi celebrates with Jordi Alba and Ansu Fati after scoring a goal. Reuters

Lionel Messi finished as top scorer in La Liga for a record seventh time after netting twice as dethroned champions Barcelona ended their disappointing campaign on a high with a resounding 5-0 win at Alaves on Sunday.

Barca finished the season second in the standings on 82 points, five behind newly-crowned champions Real Madrid who drew 2-2 at Leganes later on Sunday. Alaves came 16th on 39.

Late goal by Real Sociedad substitute Adnan Januzaj secured a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on the final day of the season as they finished sixth to seal a Europa League spot.

The draw left third-placed Atletico on 70 points. They will be joined in next season's Champions League by already qualified fourth-placed Sevilla, who beat Valencia 1-0.

Granada hammered Athletic Bilbao 4-0 to grab seventh place and a spot in the Europa League second qualifying round.

The third Europa League spot is usually awarded to the winners of the Copa del Rey but instead went to the team finishing seventh as finalists Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao requested that the showpiece, postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, be postponed until next season so fans can attend.

Fati opens scoring

Teenage forward Ansu Fati put Barca in front midway through the first half after the visitors hit the woodwork three times, while Messi and strike partner Luis Suarez further stretched their side's lead before half-time.

Defender Nelson Semedo hit the fourth early in the second half before Messi struck again, ending the campaign on 25 league goals, four more than Karim Benzema of Real Madrid.

The Argentine, who also finished as top marksman for a fourth consecutive season, eclipsed the benchmark he previously shared with the late Telmo Zarra but said he would have rather have won the league.

First strike
Ansu Fati, right, scores Barcelona's opening goal. Reuters

"Individual prizes and objectives are secondary. It's an important achievement to win it seven times but I would have liked it to have been accompanied by the La Liga title," Messi said.

Barca's captain had made headlines on Thursday following his angry post-match interview after the 2-1 loss to Osasuna, blasting the team as weak and inconsistent, also appearing to criticise the running of the club.

But he was in a happier mood after the dominant performance against Alaves, saying the team felt more confident ahead of next month's Champions League last-16 second leg game with Napoli, which they host with the score tied at 1-1.

"Today we saw something else, it was a difficult game due to the situation we were in and the kick-off time and heat but the team responded with a different attitude and showed great commitment," Messi added.

Fully focussed
Barcelona's Martin Braithwaite, right, in action. Reuters

"We took a long hard look at ourselves from the inside which is what we needed to do. We have not had a good season in terms of performances or results but today we took a step forward.

"It's an important step for what's coming next."

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