at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Madrid – Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino hailed compatriot Lionel Messi's passing ability after the Catalans moved back to the top of La Liga with a 3-0 win over Malaga at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Messi's run without a goal on league duty stretched to eight games dating back to September, but after Gerard Pique had given the hosts the lead, he helped create Barca's second and third goals that were finished off by Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez.
The four-time World Player of the Year had also shown his ability to function as a playmaker with three assists for Cristian Tello in Barca's 4-1 win over Levante in midweek.
And Martino isn't concerned how long Messi's goal drought continues as long as he continues to contribute to Barca victories.
“With respect to Leo, I don't know what can I say. Nothing surprises me with him. He controls the game well, passes the ball well, he is a good finisher, he can press and recover the ball. He is a footballer that can do everything.
“He is very precise in his passes because he can attract the opposition towards him and then hand it off. He sees passes that most people can only see whilst watching the game on TV or in the stands, not ones that you can normally see on the field.
“He has an ability not only in the precision of his passing, but also the timing which is amazing.
“If he is succeeding in that facet of his game, then it doesn't matter if he scores.”
Victory ensured Barca continued their amazing run of finishing every round of La Liga fixtures at the top of the pile for 59
However, it was also an important response after a difficult week for the club off the field following the resignation of president Sandro Rosell in the face of legal action over the signing of Neymar last year.
Martino, though, highlighted the mental strength the Barca squad had shown last season to win the league with a club record 100
points despite the serious illnesses suffered by then coach Tito Vilanova and defender Eric Abidal.
“During the last few years these players have faced up to some very important problems. Very serious problems that don't just deal with institutional questions, but health problems for teammates and coaches and they have always kept going.
“They understand that they have to do their talking on the pitch. It has been a very difficult week, but they have shown great professionalism.” – Sapa-AFP