Frenkie de Jong said it is easy playing alongside Barcelona captain Lionel Messi after he guided the LaLiga champions past Real Betis.
Messi was instrumental with a hat-trick of assists as Barca twice came from behind to beat Betis 3-2 on Sunday.
After a turbulent week following a public row with director of football Eric Abidal, Messi was back doing what he does best – leading Barca to victory.
Messi teed up De Jong, Sergio Busquets and Clement Lenglet, who scored the 72nd-minute winner before he was sent off along with Betis star Nabil Fekir.
On six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, Barca midfielder De Jong said: “It’s easy to play by his side because he gives you balls into space, it’s not that I have a special connection, but he gives you good balls in space.”
It was the perfect response for Barca, who bounced back from their shock 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Thursday.
Barca’s victory away to Betis kept the defending champions within three points of leaders and rivals Real Madrid.
“It was very important to win the game and that was not easy, although in the end we could have won by more goals, for the penalty they didn’t give Messi. It was clear, he caught him and pushed him,” De Jong said.
“It was hard to lose in the [Copa del Rey] because it was in the last minute and we had a good game. I think we deserved more but we have to look forward.”
On his own performance, Netherlands international De Jong – who arrived from Eredivisie champions Ajax in the off-season – added: “I think that was one of my best games after suffering a bit in the last few. But it wasn’t brilliant either.”