Penalty of the century or a lack of respect? Fans blown away by Lionel Messi’s stunner from the spot

Barca stars recreate Johan Cruyff classic

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 9:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 10:14am

Barcelona had football fans agog as they demolished Celta Vigo 6-1 – capped with an audacious penalty ‘assist’ from Lionel Messi to tee up Luis Suarez for a hat trick.

In an apparent tribute to former Barca legend Johan Cruyff, Messi feinted to lash the penalty into the top corner before rolling it sideways for Suarez to score his third.

That – and a cheeky rainbow flick from Neymar moments later – had fans on social media hailing the Spanish side as football’s equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters, though some killjoys complained that the penalty should have been retaken as Suarez was encroaching on the area.

“[The penalty] was designed for me, we had practised it, but Luis was closer,” Neymar told Barca TV.

“It doesn’t matter, he scored so it worked well.”

Barca were already leading 3-1 when Messi was chopped down inside the area after an outrageous piece of skill on the byeline.

Messi with a brilliant free-kick, Ivan Rakitic and Neymar got the other goals as Barca moved three points clear at the top of La Liga.

“The forwards are very generous. We love each other a lot and that friendship is the most important thing, no matter who scores the goals,” added Neymar.

The penalty brought back memories of another Barca legend Johan Cruyff when he and Jesper Olsen played a one-two for the Dutchman to score when playing for Ajax against Helmond Sport in 1982.

“We all remember Cruyff’s goal,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

“I wouldn’t dare to do it because I would tread on the ball.

“Some will like it, some won’t, but as Barca players and members of the club, on top of winning titles we try to enjoy our football in a spectacular way.”

Spanish sports daily AS quickly christened the move as the “penalty of the century.”

Yet, other sections of the Spanish media also claimed Barca’s creativity bordered on a lack of respect for their opponents.

“We have to enjoy our football, respect the opponents and try to show we are the best through the way we play,” added Enrique.

“In this country a kick is better accepted than a piece of skil. It doesn’t bother us.”

French duo Thierry Henry and Robert Pires tried a similar trick without success as they botched a penalty for Arsenal against Manchester City in 2005.

And Barca defender Jordi Alba admitted the South American duo had caught even their teammates by surprise.

“Leo always invents things and it was perfect,” said the Spanish international.

“We hadn’t seen it in any training session, we didn’t know anything.”