Lionel Messi was handed a standing ovation by almost 55,000 opposition supporters after his stunning hat-trick in Barcelona’s 4-1 win over Real Betis.
The Argentine opened the scoring at the Benito Villamarin with a wonderful freekick before doubling the advantage before half-time.
And he completed the scoring in Seville with a gorgeous chip with full-time fast approaching.
As Messi celebrated that effort – which secured the 51st treble of his career – the entire stadium rose to applaud the Barcelona No.10; some home fans even bowed down, while others joined the small travelling Barcelona contingent to chant his name.
Speaking after the encounter, which saw Barca further strengthen their hold atop La Liga, Messi said of the ovation: “I’m very grateful. “It’s never happened to me before.
Ernesto Valverde surprised many with a switch of formation, ditching Barca’s usual 4-3-3 to move to a 4-4-2 diamond, with Arturo Vidal in support of Messi and Luis Suarez.
That allowed Betis, who won 4-3 at Camp Nou earlier this season, to see plenty of the ball, particularly in the first half.
Defeat for Atletico Madrid on Saturday leaves Barcelona 10 points clear of their closest rivals, with Real Madrid two points further back in third.