Barcelona narrowed the gap to LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid to five points as Lionel Messi's second-half double helped them to a 3-0 win over Elche.

Ronald Koeman's men had missed a chance to take advantage of Atletico's slip-up against Levante at the weekend when they were held at home by struggling Cadiz.

They were not at their best on Wednesday in a clash with another relegation-threatened side in Elche, but Messi's delightful double and a stylish Jordi Alba effort secured a crucial win.

Barca remain third in the table having played a game more than Atletico, whose lead over second-placed Real Madrid is just three points.

Francisco Trincao forced Edgar Badia into a close-range save in the second minute and, after Lucas Boye had spurned a gilt-edged chance at the other end, the Portugal international was denied a stunning goal by the Elche goalkeeper.

Trincao jinked past two Elche defenders after latching on to a pass from Messi, only to see Badia produce a fine diving save with his left hand.

Badia was required again to keep out Frenkie de Jong's header from a floated Messi free-kick, the frustration clear among Koeman and his players as parity was preserved.

That parity lasted just three minutes into the second half, Messi's shot squirming into the net despite Badia getting a hand to it following a superb flicked return pass from Martin Braithwaite.

Messi's second was similarly aesthetically pleasing, De Jong finding him at the end of the slaloming run before the Argentine delicately dinked the ball over Badia.

And the game was put beyond any doubt in the 73rd minute when Braithwaite nodded Messi's excellent cross-field ball into the path of Alba to dispatch with an acrobatic effort.

The scoreline could have been made more emphatic late on, but substitute Antoine Griezmann cracked the crossbar from Sergino Dest's low cross.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski moved outright third on the list of all-time Champions League goalscorers with his strike against Lazio on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old pounced on a poor backpass from Mateo Musacchio, rounded Pepe Reina and rolled the ball into an empty net to open the scoring in the last-16 tie.

Lewandowski now has 72 goals in UEFA's premier club competition, moving him above Real Madrid great Raul and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Juventus forward Ronaldo tops the list with 134 goals while Barcelona's Messi has 119.

Poland international Lewandowski reached the 72-goal mark in 95 matches, scoring 47 with his right foot, nine with his left, 15 with his head and one via other means.

Jamal Musiala went on to double Bayern's lead at the Stadio Olimpico with a strike from the edge of the box, making him the youngest ever Englishman to score in the Champions League at 17 years and 363 days, before Leroy Sane made it 3-0 prior to half-time.

Kylian Mbappe will use his "shark" mentality to try to push aside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the summit of world football, according to Thomas Tuchel.

World Cup winner Mbappe has established himself as one of the sport's foremost stars since breaking through at Monaco but still has some way to go to match Messi and Ronaldo.

Now at Paris Saint-Germain, the striker has so far finished no higher than fourth in Ballon d'Or voting, while the two modern greats have won the prize 11 times between them.

Mbappe is also still waiting for a first Champions League triumph, losing with PSG in last season's final having failed to score in the knockout stages of the 2019-20 tournament.

The 22-year-old has quickly made amends this term, though, hitting a hat-trick at Barcelona in last week's last-16 first leg.

Mbappe became just the 10th player ever to score a treble away against Barcelona, and only the second - after Andriy Shevchenko in 1997 - to do so in the Champions League.

The performance from Mbappe in a 4-1 win was considered another breakout moment on the world stage, although Messi and Ronaldo are not going away.

While Mbappe has been involved in 30 goals in all competitions this season, ahead of the veteran stars (Ronaldo 29 involvements, Messi 27), his rate of a goal every 108 minutes lags behind Ronaldo, who nets every 95 minutes.

If Mbappe is to establish himself as the world's best, former PSG coach Tuchel says he must kick on again.

"They will never step aside, never of free will. They will never step aside," Chelsea boss Tuchel told BT Sport. "If he wants to be there, he has to push them aside.

"This is clear: on that level, nobody will step aside for him.

"Scoring a hat-trick at Nou Camp is a message and is what he demands of himself. It is his potential, it is what he has in him. He is still young, he is still hungry, he is a shark in his mentality.

"He wants to grab everything that he can have. This is the mentality that you need, and I mean it in the most positive way because he's a nice guy in private and in person.

"He's a nice guy, super intelligent, super funny, but once he's on the pitch, he's a shark. This is what the big guys are. If there is one drop of blood in the water, they arrive.

"This is Kylian, and if he wants to enter on the level from the guys that you mentioned [Messi and Ronaldo] - because they are there for years and years and years - I don't think they are ready to step aside just because he arrives.

"He has to take it. I think he will do everything to do it."

Barcelona versus Cadiz is not a fixture that particularly stands out on the Spanish football calendar, but Sunday's meeting between the two is momentous for Lionel Messi.

Having played his 505th LaLiga game for Barcelona last weekend against Deportivo Alaves, Messi has now broken a record set by one of Barcelona's most-revered sons.

Xavi retains a legendary status at Camp Nou – his influence during a 17-year career in Barca's senior team was arguably unmatched, as the team was almost constantly built around him as that metronomic hub in midfield.

In the five years since his departure, many midfielders have been signed in the hope they can pick up the slack left behind, but none have successfully replaced him.

He may yet return as coach one day. Indeed, by all accounts it seems he was offered such a chance at least once last year.

But while the legacy of his playing days will remain unblemished, he has lost a slice of Barca history to Messi…

The appearances record

After starting the visit of the Andalusians, Messi moved one clear of Xavi's previous record haul of 505 LaLiga appearances in the Blaugrana.

Like Xavi, it has taken Messi 17 seasons to go beyond 500 outings in Spain's top flight.

But while Xavi opted to depart for a final payday in Qatar with Al-Sadd, whom he now coaches, Messi's career at the very top appears to be far from over.

His penalty in the 4-1 midweek mauling by Paris Saint-Germain took Messi to 20 goals across all competitions for the 13th successive season.

His stunning brace last weekend in the dismantling of Alaves left him on 15 in LaLiga, just one fewer than pacesetter Luis Suarez – it's pretty strong form considering many regard this Messi's worst individual season in over a decade.

 

Messi played his first LaLiga game for the club in 2004-05 before firmly securing himself a place in the first-team squad over the following two campaigns.

Xavi arguably made a slightly quicker impression, his 41 league outings across his first two seasons 17 more than Messi managed.

But Messi's remarkable consistency and longevity are reflected in the fact he has not played fewer than 31 LaLiga games in a single season since 2007-08, when he featured 28 times. The year before he made 26 appearances.

Having surpassed numerous club greats such as Guillermo Amor, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes and Andres Iniesta along the way, he now moves past the final pillar.

More records to come?

Of course, it almost goes without saying that it's unclear what further LaLiga records Messi will break because his future is so uncertain.

Will he stay? Will he join PSG or Manchester City? 

Given Messi's previous insistence that Barca have to be challenging for titles, on the evidence of this season and their financial state, it's difficult to see them in the hunt for the major honours in the near future.

As such, many will expect him to follow through on his attempt to leave last year when his contract expires at the end of the season.

That shouldn't prevent Messi taking another of Xavi's club records, with the Argentinian just seven behind his former team-mate's 767 Barca appearances across all competitions. No one has made more.

But Messi, who became LaLiga's all-time leading goalscorer long ago, will likely miss out on the chance of setting a new overall league record for appearances.

His 506 is still 116 fewer than Andoni Zubizarreta's 622, with Real Betis midfielder Joaquin – still active at 39 – the closest to the former goalkeeper's record on 568.

Sergio Ramos is the only other active player ahead of Messi on 507, with Athletic Bilbao's Raul Garcia (505) just behind the Barca captain.

Although missing out on such a record would be a minor footnote in an otherwise astonishing career, it's hard to escape from the thought Messi's legacy might be that bit more magical were he to spend all of his playing days at the same club.

Manchester City are reportedly yet to begin talks over a move for Lionel Messi, while Erling Haaland is Barcelona's ideal signing.

Messi's future continues to be a major talking point as the star's contract at Barcelona expires at the end of the season.

City have been one of the clubs most strongly linked with a move for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, but it seems the Premier League giants are waiting.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY YET TO BEGIN MESSI TALKS

Manchester City are yet to open talks with Lionel Messi, according to ESPN.

The report says City will wait until the Argentina international has decided his Barcelona future before considering negotiations.

It comes after claims the Premier League side had already tabled an offer to Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland is wanted by numerous European giants. Mundo Deportivo reports the Borussia Dortmund star would be Barcelona's ideal signing, but the LaLiga side are considering more affordable options.

- Manchester United were seemingly keen to land Barcelona forward Ansu Fati last year. Mundo Deportivo says a £129.7million (€150m) bid from United for the 18-year-old was rejected ahead of 2020-21.

- With Tottenham slipping to ninth in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho has come under fire. ESPN reports Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will wait until the end of the season to make a decision on the head coach.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Gianluigi Donnarumma is yet to agree to a new deal with Milan. 90min claims the 21-year-old wants to succeed Manchester United shot-stopper David de Gea as the highest paid goalkeeper in the world, although he is prepared to take reduced terms at Milan.

- Thierry Henry could be set to take over at Bournemouth. talkSPORT reports the Championship club have requested permission from CF Montreal, where Henry is currently in charge, to talk to the Arsenal great.

Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey believes Lionel Messi needs to leave Barcelona when his contract expires at the end of the season. Such a move, Bailey believes, would take Messi closer to Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of achievement.

Manchester City have denied reports of a £433million package being proposed to lure Lionel Messi to the Premier League.

Messi is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of this season, having tried to engineer a departure from Camp Nou last August.

During that time, he was heavily linked to City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola, while Barca's appeal to the superstar forward arguably suffered another heavy blow as they were thrashed 4-1 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League this week.

On Friday, The Sun reported Messi had a five-year proposal worth £606m put to him by City before the current campaign, although this figure has been revised due to the wider financial climate of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will be 34 in June.

However, a club spokesperson told Stats Perform no such offer has been made, nor are there any talks currently ongoing.

Were Messi to sign for City, it looks increasingly likely he would be joining a title-winning side.

Guardiola's men extended their record-breaking winning run for an English top-flight team to 17 matches across all competitions by beating Everton 3-1 in midweek, a result that stretched their lead at the top of the table to 10 points.

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said he felt City were "impossible" to play against after a dazzling second-half showing at Goodison Park, where fine strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva - both players adept in the right-sided attacking roles Messi has filled for large chunks of his career - saw the visitors pull clear.

"I appreciate it, but I don't agree with Carlo, absolutely I do not agree," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's trip to Arsenal.

"We can lose, the opponents are good and we try to do better than them every single game. This is the only target.

"I love Carlo, he is an incredible inspiration for me as a manager, for many things, but I don't agree with him."

Ilkay Gundogan sat out the Everton game with a groin complaint and Guardiola will make a late call on the Germany playmaker, who has been in sparkling form of late with nine goals in as many Premier League games since the turn of the year.

Gundogan's performances meant Kevin De Bruyne's absence with a hamstring injury was not felt as keenly as might have been expected.

The Belgium star returned from the bench versus Everton and came through will no ill-effects, leaving defender Nathan Ake (hamstring) as City's only remaining senior absentee.

"Nathan is back training on the pitch alone but is closer to coming back with us," Guardiola added.

"Gundo trained just part of the training session today, we'll see how he feels. The rest are fit."

Zinedine Zidane enjoyed watching Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in Champions League action, though he refused to be drawn over his preference amid links to Real Madrid.

Mbappe lit up the start of the knockout stages of the European competition with a hat-trick for Paris Saint-Germain against Madrid's domestic rivals Barcelona on Tuesday, helping the French club record an outstanding 4-1 triumph at Camp Nou.

Just 24 hours later, Haaland continued his astonishing scoring exploits in the Champions League, becoming the fastest player to reach 10 goals for one club as he struck twice for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-2 victory away to Sevilla in the last 16.

Both young forwards have been rumoured as transfer targets for Madrid, so it was hardly surprising they were a topic of discussion for Zidane during his pre-match media conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga trip to Real Valladolid.

Asked for his assessment of fellow Frenchman Mbappe, he replied: "I think the performance he put in earlier this week was marvellous. 

"I loved seeing what he did because we know each other from France.

"It's very good for football, I watched the game as a fan. I had a very good time watching it. He has a lot of good movement, a lot of good play."

French media has claimed Mbappe has been offered a new long-term deal to remain at PSG. The 22-year-old's current contract runs until 2022, which is the same year Haaland can leave Dortmund for €75million (£65m), according to a reported agreement with the Bundesliga club.

Madrid head coach Zidane, however, was not interested in revealing which of the duo he ranked higher.

"Like I said, what I like is just watching football. I just like watching good football, good players on the pitch," he said. 

"Two tremendous players, for now and the future. That's it. I'm not going to say who I prefer over the other. Everyone has their opinion."

The continued rise of Mbappe and Haaland as superstars has led to suggestions they can step in and become the next great pairing, taking over from the longstanding rivalry between Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona captain Lionel Messi.

"They are quality players both of them, just like Messi and Cristiano," Zidane said. "Neymar, all these world class players, they're just like them.

"They're younger, they're demonstrating they are not just players for the future but players for the present."

 

Manchester City are counting the cost of the current financial climate and have slashed the budget assigned to lure Lionel Messi away from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old Barca captain could depart his boyhood team in the 2021 off-season after publicly trying, and failing, to force an exit from the Catalan club last August.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has been the subject of much speculation, but Messi may have to compromise to make the move happen as the Premier League leaders' bargaining power has taken a hit.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FORCED TO LOWER MESSI CONTRACT OFFER

City had already tabled a five-year contract designed to tempt Messi to switch LaLiga for the Premier League – but the numbers have now changed, reports The Sun.

A package worth £600million (€693m) had reportedly been prepared in order to tie the six-time Ballon d'Or winner down for the rest of his career, should he opt to leave Barca at the end of the season.

But The Sun says City will now not match the terms set in August, and the offer has dropped to £430million (€496m), potentially opening the door for Paris Saint-Germain to swoop.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have already made contact with winger Jonas Hofmann, according to Bild, as the Borussia Monchengladbach exodus threatens to begin following the news that coach Marco Rose is leaving for Borussia Dortmund next season. Hofmann played for Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund.

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is also in Tuchel's sights, and the Blues could offer Fikayo Tomori to the Serie A giants on a permanent deal as part of a player-plus-cash exchange, reports Il Milanista.

- Everton loanee Moise Kean has netted 14 goals in 25 games for PSG and his parent club will not part with the Italy international for any less than £60m, says Fabrizio Romano, while Juventus want to bring the striker back to Turin, according to Le 10 Sport.

 

Everton 'will demand £70m for Moise Kean transfer' after impressing at PSG https://t.co/3PvjhBQ1rf

— Sun Sport (@SunSport) February 18, 2021

- 'If there are opportunities, I will have a look at them,' is what Wilfried Zaha told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, reports The Sun. The Crystal Palace winger has been previously linked with Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Gunners midfielder Lucas Torreira, currently on the fringes while on loan at Atletico Madrid, is close to securing a move to Fiorentina for next season, claims Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Lionel Messi is not motivated by money as he eyes titles amid uncertainty over his Barcelona future, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Messi has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City, with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

The record six-time Ballon d'Or winner tried to leave Camp Nou at the start of the 2020-21 campaign before opting to stay.

As doubts remain over Messi following Barcelona's 4-1 rout at the hands of PSG in the first leg of the blockbuster last-16 tie on Tuesday, Laporta – one of the remaining candidates in the running for the presidency – remains hopeful of keeping the 33-year-old.

"Giving him affection is very important," Laporta told Sky Sport Italia. "The love story between Messi and Barcelona is one of the most beautiful stories in football.

"He has to be loved. He deserves it. And he has to be valued with an economic offer that makes him feel valued, but he's not led by money.

"I know him, I have a good relationship with him and a lot of respect.

"He's a winner. What he wants is to win again, with Barcelona. I'm going to do everything I can to keep him. Our competitors are state clubs, they are making offers.

"We have to be clear that money doesn't guarantee titles, and Leo is more about winning titles than making money."

Laporta added: "He makes more money than he costs, much more. Messi's cost represents eight percent of the club's total income, while he generates around 30 percent of the income.

"Messi is very profitable for Barcelona, but the most important thing is the emotional return he gives us.

"It's priceless when you ask a young boy or girl who their favourite player is and they immediately say Messi."

Messi's opening goal against PSG was his 20th goal of the season for Barcelona in all competitions – it is the 13th consecutive campaign he has scored 20-plus goals for the club.

The Barca captain has scored in the Champions League in each calendar year since 2005. This run of at least one goal in 17 consecutive years is the joint-longest run in the competition's history alongside Raul (1995-2011).

Ronald Koeman paid tribute to Kylian Mbappe while admitting Barcelona must accept Paris Saint-Germain have a "more complete team" following their Champions League rout at Camp Nou.

PSG - last season's runners-up - took a commanding lead in the last-16 tie thanks to hat-trick hero Mbappe, who fuelled a stunning 4-1 demolition on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi, whose has been heavily linked with PSG, opened the scoring via a penalty before the French visitors seized control courtesy of Mbappe and Moise Kean.

Ligue 1 champions PSG outclassed and overpowered Barca to put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals ahead of the return leg on March 10.

Barca head coach Koeman acknowledged PSG's superiority was clear to see and conceded the embattled LaLiga giants have some way to go in order to compete with Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"They were superior, they were very efficient, in particular thanks to to Mbappe," Koeman said.

"The first half was balanced. At 1-0, Ousmane [Dembele] had a good opportunity. In the second part of the match, we had some defence problems.

"They showed that they were superior, with the ball and especially physically.

"They had a more complete team than ours. We have to accept it and keep improving. We know that can happen. This team is ahead of us."

Kylian Mbappe refused to confirm his future lies at Paris Saint-Germain after his stunning hat-trick decimated Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 first leg.

Mbappe took his career Champions League tally to 24 goals with a devastating treble in PSG's 4-1 rout after Ronald Koeman's side had taken the lead at Camp Nou.

The 22-year-old lashed in an equaliser five minutes after Lionel Messi's penalty put Barca in front and added a pair of clinical second-half strikes either side of Moise Kean's goal.

Less than 24 hours earlier, reports in Spain suggested an unsettled Mbappe would not force an exit from PSG but would not sign and extension to his contract that expires in June 2022.

"It would be stupid to decide my future on a single match," Mbappe told RMC.

"The truth is that it is about reflecting for the long term.

"I have always said that I am happy here. This sort of match makes me even happier."

The French World Cup winner has netted 21 goals in 29 games during his fourth season playing for his hometown club, as PSG sit second in Ligue 1, one point behind leaders Lille.

Mbappe and his side were on the losing end in last year's Champions League final and the 39-cap international insists he is happy to focus on the club's battles to lift trophies.

"We are very happy. It was a very important game for us. We wanted to come here and win. We did it with style," Mbappe said.

"Now we have an important game on Sunday in the league. Tonight is beautiful but we won nothing.

"I am happy. I always wanted to give the best of myself. There has not always been success. But never in my life will I hide. Today I am paid for the hard work."

Mauricio Pochettino's team now turn their attentions back to the league and a match against Mbappe's former club, fourth-placed Monaco, at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe can go on to be the equal of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after his hat-trick saw Paris Saint-Germain destroy Barcelona 4-1 in the Champions League.

That was the gracious take of Mbappe's France team-mate Antoine Griezmann, who was on the receiving end of his countryman's heroics at Camp Nou in Tuesday's last-16 first leg.

Messi gave Barca the lead from the penalty spot to score in Europe's top competition for a 17th consecutive season, matching a record set by Real Madrid great Raul.

From then on, however, it was the Mbappe show as Barcelona suffered another humiliating outing on the biggest stage.

A superb equaliser created by Marco Verratti meant it was all square at the interval and Mbappe fired Mauricio Pochettino's men ahead after the hour and completed the rout with a sumptuous finish into the top corner after Moise Kean headed home Leandro Paredes' free-kick.

"PSG have a very big star of the future who will be at the level of Leo and Cristiano," Griezmann told RMC sport.

"I can only congratulate him."

Mbappe became the third player in Champions League history to score a hat-trick against Barcelona and the first for almost a quarter of century after Newcastle United's Faustino Asprilla and Dynamo Kiev's Andriy Shevchenko both achieved the feat in 1997.

It was a sensational all-round performance from the 22-year-old, who also made four key passes to create chances for his team-mates.

"We needed to have a perfect match. We didn't and they did. It's a big defeat," Griezmann said.

"We were ready, we wanted to play a big game, but they were better than us. There is nothing to say. Kylian was having a great night."

Barca need an improbable repeat of the heroics that saw them overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit against PSG at the same stage in 2017 when they head to Paris for the return next month.

Despite the odds being stacked heavily against Ronald Koeman's side, Griezmann is not giving up.

"You have to go there to win and turn the situation around. We're not going to go there as tourists," he added.

Kylian Mbappe proved he is already one of the world's greatest players after netting a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-1 win over Barcelona, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

PSG battered Barca in Camp Nou on Tuesday, the Parisian's taking an emphatic away win into the second leg at the Parc des Princes next month.

While all eyes were on PSG-linked Messi before the game, Mbappe showed why he is regarded by many as the Argentinian's heir to the 'best player in the world' label.

After Messi opened the scoring from the spot, Mbappe went on to net a stunning treble that was completed late on with a gorgeous first-time effort that found the top-right corner, in doing so becoming the first away player to net a Champions League hat-trick in Camp Nou since Andriy Shevchenko in 1997.

Pochettino championed the Frenchman at full-time, but also urged his team to remain humble.

"We have no doubt that Kylian is one of the greatest players in the world despite his youth," Pochettino told RMC Sport.

"He has already done extraordinary things, but we must remain humble. There are 90 minutes left and they have great players. There is still a second leg."

The result gives PSG a massive advantage ahead of the second leg, though they of all clubs will be aware of what can happen when complacency sets in.

This was PSG's first trip to Barcelona since the 2017 humiliation, when they surrendered a 4-0 first-leg lead by losing 6-1 in the return leg.

As such, Pochettino was keen to stress PSG cannot get absorbed in any talk about their performance in Camp Nou being "perfect".

"There is no such thing as perfection," he added. "I am happy with the result and how we played, but we have to remain humble.

"On Sunday we have a big match against Monaco, we are already looking towards this match."

This was the first time Barcelona have conceded four goals in a home Champions League knockout match in over 23 years.

They have never progressed in a European knockout tie when losing their first game at home.

Returning from knee ligament damage two months ahead of schedule having not played since November, Gerard Pique probably wanted to ease his way into proceedings.

Inside the first minute, Paris Saint-Germain's masterful playmaker Marco Verratti floated a ball over the top of the Barcelona backline and Kylian Mbappe already had Pique in his rear-view mirror.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen tore out of his penalty area and ultimately averted the danger by careering in to make a wild, sliced clearance.

Welcome back to the Champions League, Gerard.  All the best.

As a high-octane first half unfolded in the plum Champions League last-16 tie, Ronald Koeman's gamble in wheeling out his most experienced centre-back began to make sense. Maybe delaying the inevitable in a 4-1 shellacking was the best he could hope for.

PSG racked up six corners before the interval. As the players in the box awaited each delivery, Pique's voice was typically heard above all other, booming around a cavernous Camp Nou.

Generally, he was in the right place to deal with them. Four clearances were more than any of his Barca team-mates at the halfway stage.

Doubts over his overall mobility did not prevent an ever-smooth footballer completing all 71 of his passes on the night, while fellow old timer Sergio Busquets found the target with 45 of 48. The final analysis showed this sorry Barcelona need much more than lingering competence.

Barca fall flat with the band back together

Koeman's tenure has come to feel like one of transition, with Pedri making a wonderful first-team breakthrough and Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann becoming more prominent figures.

But here were Pique, Busquets and Lionel Messi - three of the most decorated players in football history - pressed into action together in a match where Barca had to be content with hanging on to PSG's coattails, even if they threatened sporadically to disrobe their well-heeled opponents.

Pique and Clement Lenglet shifted the hosts' backline a touch deeper after their early scare and Barcelona initially had a counter-attacking threat to match that pragmatism.

Before the half hour, they led. Layvin Kurzawa got caught under Pedri's raking pass and accidentally tripped De Jong. Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot and Messi rifled unerringly into the top-right corner.

Kurzawa was keen to make amends and found assistance in Ousmane Dembele's laissez-faire approach to tracking back. The full-back arrowed a ball into the Barca box, where a majestic, silken touch from Verratti picked the lock.

Pique would sooner have seen Mbappe at close quarters than in the wide-open spaces, but Verratti's pass combined with the forward's supreme awareness and fast-twitch capabilities meant there was enough room to lash beyond Ter Stegen.

Griezmann collected a Messi pass and almost converted at the end of a wonderful solo run to restore the lead but those moments of defiance became increasingly fleeting.

PSG, with Verratti and Leandro Paredes pulling the strings, were the bosses at the ground where they suffered an unparalleled humiliation in 2017.

Messi's devastating new normal

Recent history shows that incredible 6-1 win was the exception for Barca towards the end of an imperial period that has unquestionably passed. The 4-0 defeat they needed to overturn four years ago is the norm.

Juventus 3-0, Roma 3-0, Liverpool 4-0, Bayern Munich 8-2. Knockout ties where they are comprehensively outplayed by high-class opponents. Here was another.

Mbappe had never played Barcelona before Tuesday. He will barely be able to contain himself waiting for the return after a hat-trick of the highest order. Neymar might even be fit by the time his bedraggled former employers arrive in Paris.

Pique was scampering around on the goal line just in case when Moise Kean's deflected effort was kept out by Ter Stegen. Barca might well have been in Bayern territory again but for their keeper's four impressive saves.

The experienced defender was unable to jam another finger it the dam when he half-cleared Alessandro Florenzi's cross - Paredes' pass to release the full-back was sumptuous - and crumped into a net rippled by a thumping Mbappe finish.

Kean headed in a Paredes free-kick to make it three and Pique and Busquets had been substituted by the time Mbappe whipped an effervescent strike into the top corner to claim the matchball.

Messi trudged sad and alone, as he so often has through these all-too-frequent humiliations. End-of-era defeats are supposed to be one-off events but his Barcelona have a catalogue of them. It really is over this time.

Defenders in blue and red chased shadows as Mbappe fired himself and his team-mates into the stratosphere. If they look far enough back into the past, Messi, Pique and Busquets will see a time when they were the future. They'll have to squint hard, but that is preferable to lingering too long on their sorry present.

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