Messi puts Barça on top of the world


Barcelona yesterday made official what everyone already knows – they are the best team in the world.

Pep Guardiola's side thrashed Brazil's Santos 4-0 in the final of the Club World Cup in Japan, and the coach was quick to praise the dominant display he had just witnessed. "My players were like artists," he said. "Whatever they envisaged in their minds they were able to do on the pitch. It was an incredible performance."

Lionel Messi scored the first and last goals of the rout, both with his usual unerring composure when faced with a one-on-one situation – firstly scooping the ball over Santos goalkeeper Rafael Cabral with a deft chip after 17 minutes, and then with eight minutes remaining he glided past the hapless Cabral to pass the ball into an empty net. Xavi and Cesc Fabregas also got on the scoresheet.

While Barça brought home another piece of silverware, Real Madrid went three points clear at the top of La Liga before the winter break by winning 6-2 at Seville. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to take his 2011 La Liga tally to a record 43, surpassing his great rival Messi's 42 in the 2010 calendar year.

In Italy, Juventus maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-0 victory against Novara in Turin yesterday. In Germany, Bayern Munich remain three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga after beating Cologne 3-0, despite playing with 10 men for most of the match after Franck Ribéry's 33rd-minute dismissal.