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 Posted by Dermot Corrigan
Aug 24, 2014

Luis Enrique hails 'magic' Lionel Messi

ESPN FC's Shaka Hislop breaks down who he thinks will take home the La Liga crown this season.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique hailed a "magic" Lionel Messi after the Argentina started the new La Liga season with a match-winning display in his side's 3-0 win over Elche at the Camp Nou.

- Ledwith: Messi, Munir shine in Barca win
- Corrigan: Three Points on Barcelona-Elche

With Luis Suarez suspended and Neymar injured all eyes were even more than usual on Messi -- and he responded with two neatly taken goals in an all-around hardworking performances which suggested that the four time Ballon d'Or winner had put recent questions about his fitness and motivation behind him.

The new Blaugrana boss said that Messi still had the potential to the world's best player in all facets of the game -- scoring, assisting and working hard to help his teammates.

"[Messi] remains the best player in the world, obviously," Luis Enrique said. "We must look at all aspects of his play, he can be the best player in the world, even defending. He has that quality. We see him every day, and the things he tends to do on the pitch, during games. He is the best player in the world in whatever he wants, scoring goal, giving assists, pressuring opponents. He was touched by a magic wand years ago, and keeps responding. He does unreal things."

Also impressive on the night was Barca's latest new attacking starlet, with Munir El Haddadi scoring a fine goal on his full La Liga debut. Luis Enrique said that 18-year-old Munir, who just last year was playing in the youth team, was still raw but was developing quickly.

"Munir is coming through at a burning pace," he said. "He gives us lots of options, scores goals, competes well. But for a player from youth system to have minutes at team like Barca is difficult. We should not exaggerate, he is still to develop into a complete player for the first team. But he has raised expectations."

Lionel Messi waltzed through the Elche defence in scoring his first two La Liga goals of the season.

The former Barca B, Roma and Celta Vigo coach said he was overall very happy with how his team had controlled the game from start to finish, even after centre-back Javier Mascherano was sent off for a professional foul just after halftime.

"I could not be more happy, it was a bit what we expected from the start," Luis Enrique said. "They were very well organised defensively, so it cost us a bit to make chances. But bit by bit we managed it and the team showed a lot of things, attacks of different kinds, and got through a good defensive team. The game changed with the sending-off, and we wanted to control things a bit more with the ball. With the individual quality we have here -- and above all with Leo in this state of grace -- we must all be very happy."

Luis Enrique also brushed off concerns from a local reporter that Xavi Hernandez spending the full 90 minutes on the bench was a sign the long-serving would have a limited role this season.

"I do not know what will happen in future," he said. "I can only play eleven players, but I am sure that Xavi will be key over course of the season. All players in squad will have an important role. I am delighted with Xavi's behaviour. For this game he was not in best condition, so I decided not to use him."

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