Lionel Messi was greeted with a standing ovation by almost 55,000 opposition fans after his breathtaking hat-trick in Barcelona’s 4-1 win over Real Betis.
The Argentine national opened the scoring at the Benito Villamarin with a fantastic freekick before doubling the advantage before half-time.
And he finalized the scoring in Seville with a gorgeous chip with full-time fast approaching.
As Messi celebrated that victory – which secured the 51st triple of his career – the entire stadium rose in applauds for the Barcelona No.10; some home fans even bowed down, while others joined the small
Speaking after the match, which saw Barcelona further reinforce their hold atop La Liga, Messi said of the ovation: “I’m very grateful. “It’s never happened to me before.
Ernesto Valverde surprised many with a switch of formation, ditching Barca’s usual 4-3-3 to move to a 4-4-2 diamond, with Arturo Vidal in support of Messi and Luis Suarez.
That allowed Betis, who won 4-3 at Camp Nou earlier this season, to see plenty of the ball, particularly in the first half.
Defeat for Atletico Madrid on Saturday leaves Barcelona 10 points clear of their closest rivals, with Real Madrid two points further back in third.