Valverde hails ‘enormous advantage’ Messi gives Barcelona
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde hailed the influence of Lionel Messi after the Argentinian ensured his side would end the year on a high.
Messi struck his 50th goal of 2019 as Barca bounced back from two consecutive draws to ease past Alaves 4-1 and maintain their position at the top of La Liga.
Valverde told Spanish media: “It is an enormous advantage we have, when Leo appears and can get you a goal from anywhere.
“We’ve come from a very intense match on Wednesday and when you make it 2-0, it seems to be an important gap, but I don’t think so.
“In this game we were especially interested in not having any fright, [as we were] aware that Alaves could hurt us.
“We are leaving  with a good feeling, because we know [the league] is long.”
Their victory also ensured Barcelona finished the year unbeaten at the Nou Camp and Valverde is looking forward to a rest before the campaign resumes at city rivals Espanyol in the new year.
Valverde added: “We have had a very intense month. In the end, not only this week in the games against Real [Sociedad] and against Madrid.
“We come from playing against Atletico, against Dortmund. It has been a month where we have all wanted to have a good holiday.”
Coming just three days after their tepid El Clasico draw with Real Madrid, French international Antoine Griezmann – who opened the scoring for his side – admitted weariness was evident.
Griezmann said: “We played three days ago and the legs are somewhat tired, but we had a good game.
“It was a pity to concede that goal, but I didn’t see it as a danger. Then steps us the best player in the world.
“We have a great squad and with the best players and when the team needs a push, he [Messi] is there.”