Lionel Messi gave up the chance for a hat-trick on Thursday as Barcelona held off a late fightback from Getafe to win 5-2 and stay in the race at the top of La Liga.
Messi scored twice and could have had a third in injury-time at Camp Nou but deferred a penalty to Antoine Griezmann, who completed what was in the end a comfortable victory.
“He’s the best in the world, he never lets up,” said Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
“If he lowers his concentration you never notice. Hopefully he stays for many more years.”
After beating Athletic Bilbao to lift the Copa del Rey last weekend, Barca are now in the hunt for the double, sitting five points behind Atletico Madrid but still with a game in hand.
Atletico had earlier brushed aside Huesca 2-0 to register back-to-back victories for the first time since January and with Real Madrid also seeing off Cadiz on Wednesday, there is no margin for error now in a thrilling battle for the title.
None of Spain’s leading trio appear to have been affected by an incredible few days off the pitch, which saw Real Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona all sign up for the hugely controversial European Super League on Sunday.
Atletico withdrew from the breakaway competition on Wednesday but Barca and and Real Madrid remain part of a project that would transform the fabric of European football.
Getafe were wearing t-shirts in protest against the European Super League, even as they gave Barcelona a guard of honour to mark the Catalans’ cup success.
Messi now has 33 goals in all competitions and 25 in the league, one more than the total scored by the whole Getafe team.
Getafe are not safe yet, four points the gap above the bottom three. (Reuters)