Lionel Messi showed his worth yet again, scoring on a beautiful free kick to lead Barcelona to a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league.
The 650th goal in his Barcelona career came amid the noise prompted by Spanish newspaper El Mundo’s report that his contract is worth 555 million euros ($673 million). The Catalan club, mired in debt and political turmoil, had to quickly deny its involvement in the leak.
Antoine Griezmann also scored for Barcelona, which won its fifth in a row in the league and moved into second place for the first time this season. It has the same 40 points as Real Madrid but is ahead on goal difference. Atlético earlier opened a 10-point lead after winning 4-2 at Cádiz with a pair of goals by Luis Suárez.
Messi, who had his request to leave Barcelona denied by the club last season, seemed unaffected by the leak Sunday of his contract details. He played well from the start and was decisive again at the Camp Nou Stadium. The Argentine great opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a free kick shot that curled over the wall and found the top corner for his 12th league goal.
Athletic equalized with an own-goal by Jordi Alba as the defender tried to clear a cross by RaúlGarcía in the 49th, and Griezmann put Barcelona ahead again, completing a cross by ÓscarMingueza in the 75th.
It was the third meeting between Barcelona and Athletic this month, with the Catalan club winning a postponed league game and losing the Spanish Super Cup final.
Athletic was trying to win its sixth consecutive match in all competitions. The loss was only its second since coach MarcelinoGarcíaToral was signed in the beginning of the year — the first also was against Barcelona.
It was Barcelona’s first home match in 2021. It had played eight consecutive games away from the Camp Nou, including in the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup.