It took three minutes and three touches, and substitute Lionel Messi was back in the old routine a month after his last game and just in time to take on Manchester City on Wednesday.
Barcelona’s fit again No 10 got their fourth goal in a 4-0 win over Deportivo in which Luis Suarez also scored. While City had to roll their sleeves up against Everton, Barca strolled through this one.
Messi came on at minute 55 to the loudest cheer of the afternoon. He took a couple of easy touches deep in midfield and then ventured into the area for the first time. Neymar played him into space and he shot past German Lux. It was as simple as the victory itself.
Messi has now scored 44 goals this year.
The only man who has scored more in the calendar year is Suarez and he wrote the story of the first half with a goal, an assist and a thumping shot on to the post before being taken off at the break.
This Thursday, Suarez will pick up the Golden Boot for his scoring exploits last season; there are no signs of him slowing down during this campaign with eight goals and seven assists in 10 matches. He now has 45 goals and 24 assists in 45 games in 2016. The overall total for Barcelona now runs at 93 in 106 games.
Deportivo have drawn on their last two visits to the Camp Nou but there was very little even about this game. Barca started the game with three at the back – partly tactical and partly because Luis Enrique has fallen out with the last fit right back Aleix Vidal. Sergio Roberto will be back in that position for Wednesday.
Barca were bright from kick-off and Neymar hooked Rafinha’s cross on to bar with Suarez heading the rebound over from very close in.
Mosquera kicked Neymar as Deportivo tried to get to grips with the hosts but they were coming off worse in the physical battle too and when Sidnei clashed with Suarez the defender hobbled off moments later.
Neymar skimmed the top of Lux’s net with a free-kick and then on 21 minutes the breakthrough came.
Rafinha won the ball back down the right. Suarez nudged it back to him and he put his foot through a shot that went through the hands of Lux in the Deportivo goal.
Rafinha got his second on 36 minutes when Neymar found Pique with a deep free-kick. Lux saved Pique’s towering header but Rafinha scooped in the rebound as he was falling.
A very wayward shot from Florin Andone was the best that Deportivo could muster. Rafinha was enjoying the playing time. He knows Messi will start on Wednesday but he is emerging as Luis Enrique’s first option when any of his front three are unavailable.
Barca’s three at the back were not very convincing however and Pique had a long touchline conversation with Luis Enrique while the rest of his team-mates were celebrating the first goal.
It didn’t matter as Deportivo failed to test Marc Andre ter Stegen.
Messi’s second-half introduction kept things interesting and as if him scoring the fourth had not been enough to ram home Barcelona’s superiority Laure got himself sent off for an elbow on Neymar.
The Brazilian has been accused of theatrics in the past but their was clear contact and the defender had to walk.
Barcelona were able to walk their way though the last 15 minutes.
Pique spent much of what was left of the game as an auxiliary centre-forward looking to score the fifth or to set-up new signing Paco Alcacer who is yet to get off the mark.
He hit the post, had a shot saved at point-blank range by Lux and shot wide from a yard out as Deportivo managed to keep the score at four.
Had Suarez and Messi played full games it could have been a lot worse.