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Messi Stars As Barcelona Win Another Copa del Rey Title

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday to win the trophy for a record-extending 31st time with all the goals coming in the last half an hour.

Antoine Griezmann put a dominant Barca side ahead on the hour when he turned in a cross from Frenkie de Jong, who doubled the Catalans’ lead three minutes later.

Victory gives Barca their first trophy under manager Ronald Koeman and their first silverware since 2019.

Messi suffered some rough tackles from Athletic but got his revenge with a spectacular goal in the 68th, tearing his way through the defence down the right wing and combining with De Jong before dancing around another defender to slot home.

Barca’s captain struck again four minutes later in his 10th Copa final when he met a low cross from Jordi Alba and fired the ball into the bottom corner, his shot proving too powerful for Athletic keeper Unai Simon.

Griezmann thought he had grabbed Barca’s fifth goal in added time but his effort was ruled offside after a VAR review.

“It’s very special to lift this Cup as captain of this club, it’s a very happy day for this group,” said Messi.

“We knew Athletic would play as they did and we had to be patient with the ball and try to create space. We were all over them in the first half and in the second they dropped off.”

The Argentine hoisted the trophy for a seventh time while Dutch coach Ronald Koeman earned his first piece of silverware as Barca coach to add to the glut of honours he won as a player with the the club, including a Copa triumph in 1990.

Koeman also won the Copa in charge of Valencia in 2008.

“To win a title is important for me,” said Koeman, whose side are third in La Liga – two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

“Despite the changes at the club and the young players, at Barca you have to always fight for trophies.

“We have the first one and now we are going to fight to the last game in La Liga.”

For Athletic is was a second Copa del Rey final defeat in two weeks after they lost to Real Sociedad in the delayed 2020 final on 3 April.

This has been a strange season for Barcelona which began with Messi saying he wanted to leave the club and has since seen a team in transition both impress and underwhelm.

In Seville, however, they were by far the better team and would have scored earlier but for two excellent saves from Unai Simon.

As ever, Messi was at the forefront of their attacking play and he capped the win with two trademark goals.

His first included the dribbling, vision and finishing we have come to expect throughout his stellar career and the second was a first-time, left-footed strike into the bottom corner also seen so often.

The question now – one posed to his team-mates at full-time – is whether this trophy, Messi’s seventh triumph in the competition, is enough to convince the Argentine to stay.

It boosts Koeman’s chances of remaining into the second year of his contract, whether or not his side succeed in their title race with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

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