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18 Mar, 2019 16:08

'Messi! Messi!': Rival fans chant Barca great's name after latest physics-defying display (VIDEOS)

'Messi! Messi!': Rival fans chant Barca great's name after latest physics-defying display (VIDEOS)

Lionel Messi is probably used to plaudits from his own fans for his on-field exploits, but on Sunday praise for the Barcelona maestro reached new levels as he was applauded by opposition fans upon completing a stunning hat-trick.

Real Betis gave the Argentine a standing ovation as his 51st hat-trick for the Catalan club helped Barca to a 4-1 victory in Seville and cement the league leader's position at the top of La Liga by 10 points.

Supporters chanted "Messi! Messi!" at Benito Villamarín Stadium, after the 31-year-old chipped in a sublime chip to top off a brilliant hat-trick that also saw him guide home a free kick with ease into the top corner on 18 minutes after Arthur Melo was adjudged to have been fouled on the edge of the area.

Messi curled the ball into the top corner to net his fifth direct free-kick goal of the season to open the scoring, despite a four man wall and a fifth player lying down behind it in case Messi decided to roll the ball in.

The second came in first half stoppage time from an assist from Luis Suarez to send Barca into the break two up. After the hour mark, Suarez turned scorer, before Messi's physics-defying chip from just outside the edge of the area curled over the keeper and clip in off the bar which precipitated cheers even from home fans, who almost in unison serenaded Messi with chants and a standing ovation.

Ever the reluctant star, Messi simply raised a humble hand in the air to salute the chants, having made the score 4-1 to the visitors. A single consolation goal for the hosts came from Loren Morón eight minutes from time, just three minutes before Messi's latest stroke of genius.

The hat-trick saw Messi score his 27th, 28th and 29th goals for Barca this season to take his haul of combined assists and goals to a stunning 60 in total. The Spanish league leaders took full advantage of closest challengers Atletico Madrid slipping up 2-0 to Athletic Bilbao.

After the game, Barca manager Ernesto Valverde was full of praise for his captain, and insisted football fans are "lucky" to be witnessing the era of the diminutive Argentine.

"Our opponents suffer because of Messi, to a certain degree, but they also recognize the player he is and enjoy him," Valverde explained in his post-match press conference, via Ruptly.

"The public has recognised his talent, they are are lucky enough to see him in his prime, because that's something not everyone can say," he added.

The Barcelona captain takes his side to play Manchester United in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in April, with many quick to poke fun at United's at-times leaky defense being frozen in fear of facing perhaps one of the greatest players to play the game.