BARCELONA: Lionel Messi passed up the chance to net his 300th La Liga goal and instead put a hat-trick on a plate for team mate Luis Suarez with an outrageous penalty routine that evoked memories of Barcelona great Johan Cruyff on Sunday.
With Barcelona leading Celta Vigo 3-1 at a buzzing Nou Camp, Messi stepped forward in the 81st minute to take the spot kick but stunned the crowd by tapping the ball to the side for Suarez, who raced into the box and fired past bewildered goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez.
Messi and Suarez wheeled away in glee and were quickly mobbed by their team mates, who looked as surprised as anyone.
The goal took Suarez onto 23 in the league this season, two ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona finished the match 6-1 winners.
Coach Luis Enrique rejected suggestions the penalty was intended to embarrass the opposition and said he had seen his attacking trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar produce moments of magic in training.
“There will be those who like it and those who don’t,” he told reporters. “As well as winning titles, here we try to entertain people and win in a spectacular and sporting manner.
“You can take a penalty like that, it’s legal and there’s a Cruyff penalty we all know,”
Dutch great Cruyff pulled off a similar trick while playing for Ajax against Helmond Sport in 1982, squaring the ball for team mate Jesper Olsen, who then passed it back to him to score.
Cruyff played for Barcelona from 1973 to 1978.
Frenchmen Robert Pires and Thierry Henry tried a similar trick for Arsenal against Manchester City in 2005 but got into a muddle and failed to score.
Luis Enrique said it was not something he would try.
“I wouldn’t dare take it like that because I’d fall over when I put my foot on the ball,” he said.
The coach added there was nothing arrogant about Messi’s penalty and said there was a tendency in Spain to look down on moments of skill.
“In this country, a kick (at an opponent) is more readily accepted than anything fancy,” he added. “We don’t care about that.
“What we have to do is enjoy our football, respect our opponents, try to show we’re better through football.
“I’m sorry but I don’t think anything special happened. I’m used to seeing them train and there they are even better,” he added.