‘Rival’ Fans Salute Humble Messi

Real Betis fans sang Messi’s name after his extraordinary performance on Sunday night

Lionel Messi was given a standing ovation by Real Betis supporters after scoring his 33rd La Liga hat trick in Barcelona’s 4-1 win at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday.

Messi opened the scoring with a free kick and added the second before the break after a brilliant Luis Suarez assist. He completed his treble late on with an exquisite chip after Suarez and Loren Moron had exchanged goals.

The third Messi strike, which killed off any late hopes of a Betis comeback, drew an ovation from the home supporters which the Argentine international says he has never previously experienced.

I don’t ever remember a night like this [being applauded by rival supporters],” he told Movistar after taking his goal tally for the season in all competitions to 39.

“I’m really grateful for the way the fans responded. I honestly don’t remember an ovation like that [from rival fans].”

Barca coach, Ernesto Valverde says Messi’s treatment from the Betis fans is a deserved recognition for everything he does on a football pitch.

“With Messi [in your side], everything is easier,” he said in his post game news conference. “Leo’s performance was extraordinary. The whole stadium applauded him. We’re fortunate to be living at a time when he’s playing football.

“Opponents also enjoy what he does despite the fact that he scores against them. And the [Betis] supporters recognised that. Even though rival fans suffer at the hands of him, they recognise the player he is.”

Valverde changed Barca’s shape for the game against Betis, dropping Philippe Coutinho and playing a midfield four after losing to Quique Setien’s side at Camp Nou earlier in the season.