Messi shines and smiles in the Copa del Rey 1:42
A group of people organized and waited patiently to take photos with Lionel Messi, but these were not fans, they were the Argentine's teammates at FC Barcelona.
One by one, the squad members took turns posing next to Messi and the Copa del Rey trophy, which Barcelona had just won when they beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in Saturday's final.
Messi, unsurprisingly, stole the show.
While this match was perhaps the most outstanding performance in the Barcelona jersey for young Frenkie de Jong - who for the first time really looks like the star that Barcelona bought from Ajax in 2019 - it was Barcelona's third goal, Messi's first, for which this game will be remembered.
Copa del Rey: FC Barcelona crushes Athletic Club de Bilbao 4-0 and wins the title 31
Starting well within his own half, Messi traded passes with Sergiño Dest, before moving forward and doing the same with De Jong higher up the field.
De Jong's return pass found Messi inside the penalty area and the Argentine jumped between two Bilbao defenders and coldly shoved the ball into the bottom corner.
Quand les jeunes du Barça souhaitent immortaliser la victoire avec Messi 😄📸 # lequipeFOOT #AthleticBarca pic.twitter.com/quC8BKDmao
- la chaine L'Équipe (@lachainelequipe) April 17, 2021
He's the kind of genius fans have grown used to seeing with No. 10 and he brought back memories of the first goal in the 2015 Copa de Rey final, also against Bilbao, considered one of Messi's coolest.
Saturday's rivals must surely be fed up with seeing Barcelona and their captain.
Since Bilbao last won a major trophy in 1984, the club has lost six Copa del Rey finals.
Four of those defeats have been against Barcelona and Messi has scored in each of them.
To top it off, with this defeat, Bilbao has already lost two Copa del Rey finals in the space of two weeks.
The final of the 2020 competition had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and had only been played a fortnight ago, with Bilbao losing 1-0 to Real Sociedad.
FC Barcelona players celebrate the 31st Copa del Rey title
This was Messi's 35th trophy with Barcelona, but it may also be his last.
Before the season began, Messi made public that he had wanted to leave Barcelona "all year long" and it remains to be seen if the team's recent revival has changed his mind.
Saturday's victory was the first trophy for coach Ronald Koeman, who accepted the job in the summer, and it was a fitting reward for the constant and incremental improvements this team has made under his guidance on the court this season.
Those improvements have seen Barcelona close the gap with LaLiga leader Atlético de Madrid just one point behind, with Real Madrid just another point behind, meaning Koeman and Messi have a more realistic chance of winning a trophy before the end of the season.
But success in Spain may no longer be enough to satiate the appetite of a player who hasn't won the Champions League since 2015 and this season's 5-2 aggregate beating at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain once again proved. how far Barcelona is from the elite of Europe.
Whether it was goodbye or not, it was clear to all to see how much this title meant to Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona's first since 2019. There was pure and genuine joy on his face as he lifted the trophy.
"It is very special to be captain of this team in which I have spent all my life," Messi said after the game.
"And very special to be able to raise the glass."
Emotional words from Messi after lifting the Copa del Rey 0:38
FC Barcelona Lionel Messi