PARIS, France, Feb 25 – It was a weekend of landmarks in Europe, with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe both reaching notable half-centuries. Meanwhile, Monaco look reborn, Borussia Dortmund won again, and Cristiano Ronaldo came in for criticism in Italy.
AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points from the weekend in Europe:
Messi never ceases to amaze
They said Lionel Messi was short of form and fitness, and then the Argentine produced one of the greatest performances in his incredible career with a hat-trick and an assist in Barcelona’s 4-2 win at Sevilla in La Liga.
It was some way for the Argentine to score his 50th career hat-trick, with his first two goals quite stunning and his third a cheeky chip as the Catalans twice came from behind.
Messi then brilliantly set up Luis Suarez’s goal that rounded off the victory which keeps Barcelona seven points clear of Atletico Madrid atop La Liga.
“We cannot always be at our best,” Messi said after emphatically returning to form.
Honeymoon over for ‘irritated’ Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance was blasted as Juventus scraped a 1-0 win at lowly Bologna with substitute Paulo Dybala scoring.
“Perhaps the worst CR7 of the season, lifeless physically and mentally,” wrote Gazzetta Dello Sport, who voted him Juventus’s worst player on the pitch and described him as looking “irritated” and “saddened”.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri admitted his side were suffering “a bit of a hangover” after losing 2-0 at Atletico Madrid in their Champions League last 16, first leg last Wednesday.
The top scorer in the Champions League for the last six seasons, Ronaldo has scored just one goal in this year’s competition. He is the leading scorer in Serie A with 19, though, and the Turin side remain 13 points clear at the top.
Mbappe is insatiable
Kylian Mbappe is lightning-fast with the ball at his feet, and he is rapid at setting records too.
The 20-year-old French superstar became the youngest player ever to reach a half-century of goals in Ligue 1 with a brace in Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-0 win over Nimes, taking him to 51 in just 88 matches.
Previously, Yannick Stopyra had been the fastest to reach the 50-goal mark, but it was just before his 22nd birthday when he did so back in 1982.
“Football is still fun for me, and scoring goals and breaking records is what drives me so I’m very happy,” said Mbappe.
Monaco are a new team
Almost literally, as four January signings started the principality side’s 2-0 win against Lyon, while another came off the bench. It was all overseen by Leonardo Jardim, brought back for a second spell as coach last month.
Since Jardim’s return, Monaco have taken 10 points from a possible 12 to pull clear of the relegation zone.
Of the new signings, Gelson Martins has had the biggest impact. The Portuguese winger, on loan from Atletico Madrid, has three goals and one assist in four league appearances — he got the opener before Rony Lopes also netted against Lyon.
The transfer window has rescued a team who were heading for the drop under Thierry Henry, but some of Monaco’s rivals think what they have done is unfair after they made eight new signings in January.
Lyon boss Bruno Genesio thinks the number of changes a club can make to a squad should be limited, although he admitted: “If the rules allow them to do so, then they would be wrong not to.”
Dortmund have goals everywhere
Borussia Dortmund were without leading scorer Marco Reus in Sunday’s game against Bayer Leverkusen, but it didn’t matter as they won 3-2, a first victory in six keeping them three points clear of Bayern Munich at the Bundesliga summit.
Reus, who has been out with a thigh injury, has scored 13 of Dortmund’s 57 league goals this season.
Jadon Sancho and Mario Goetze have netted 12 between them after both scored against Leverkusen, while Manuel Akanji got the opener.
The Swiss defender is the 18th member of Lucien Favre’s squad to score in the league this season — Marcel Schmelzer and Omer Toprak, neither of whom have been regulars, are the only two outfield players without a goal.