Only a draw was required for Barcelona to complete a league and cup double following last week’s Copa del Rey triumph and while Ernesto Valverde’s side made hard work of it against now relegated Deportivo de La Coruña, Lionel Messi was once more on hand to inspire victory.
The Argentina captain scored yet another career hat-trick to end Deportivo’s brave fightback, relegating the Branquiazuis in the process, and putting Messi out in front in the race for the European Golden Shoe with 32 for the season.
Philippe Coutinho’s wonderful curling effort and a Lionel Messi volley had put Barcelona in complete control but Lucas Pérez pulled a goal back before the break and Emre Colak equalised after 64 minutes.
However, a delightful one-two with Luis Suárez, who assisted all off Messi’s goals, saw the world’s best player tap in his second to restore the lead and minutes later, the pair combined again for Messi to complete his 46th career hat-trick.
The victory gave Barcelona a 25th LaLiga title and with only four games remaining, Ernesto Valverde’s side are closing in on a historic unbeaten season. While the Champions League exit was an unquestionable disappointment and Valverde has at times been criticised for his pragmatism, Barcelona have enjoyed a superb campaign and Messi has been at his best.
Confirming the capture of the European Golden Shoe remains but Messi should now be able to take it easy and arrive at the World Cup in optimum condition.
The title race in Italy remains in the balance but after Napoli defeated Juventus last week to suggest Serie A could be about to witness a changing of the guard, Giovanni Simeone stunned Maurizio Sarri’s side to hand the advantage back to Juve.
A day after Juventus had come from behind to claim an injury time win over Inter, Simeone struck a hat-trick for Fiorentina to inflict a damaging defeat on Napoli.
Napoli’s hero last week Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off after only eight minutes following a last-man challenge on Simeone and when the young Argentinian striker dashed in behind to slot the ball past Pepe Reina it was clear Napoli were in trouble.
Simeone doubled the lead from close range just after the hour mark and run through one-on-one to complete his hat-trick in stoppage time.
The 22-year-old hadn’t scored more than one goal in a game since his move to Fiorentina last summer but took his tally to an impressive 16 for the season.
The Viola remain in the hunt for a Europa League spot but trail by four points which is now the deficit Napoli need to make up with only three games remaining.