Even when he doesn’t start a game, Leo Messi still ends up being decisive. It’s an unusual sight to see the greatest player on Earth coming on as a substitute, but that’s what he did against Betis on Saturday. It was 1-1 when he entered, and by the time the game was over Barça had won 5-2 and he had scored two goals and done a lot more besides.
He replaced Ansu Fati at the break to take to the field against a side against which he had already scored 25 goals in all competitions, including two hat-tricks and eight braces.
It was the first time he hadn’t started a game despite being fit since September 2019, and would go on to become the first time he had scored two as a substitute since he did so against Getafe in the 2014 Copa del Rey.
The first goal was a penalty, the 12th in a row that he has scored and his fifth this season, and against a former team-mate in Claudio Bravo. But before that he had played a huge part in Antoine Griezmann’s goal by cleverly NOT doing anything and leaving the Frenchman to score at ease.
And with eight minutes to go, he converted a goal assisted by the heel of Sergi Roberto to make it 4-2, and moments later had another goal disallowed for offside.
Nobody would ever think of Messi as a ‘supersub’, but with 26 goals in 55 games, he is actually the league’s all-time leader for goals coming off the bench. Second in the list is Uruguayan Walter Pandiani with 20 goals in 116 appearances as a substitute.