Vilanova hails Messi hat-trick

  • Last Updated: July 29 2012, 15:33 BST

Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova hailed the impact of Lionel Messi in his first game of pre-season after the Catalans ran out 8-0 winners over Raja Casablanca in Tangier.

Lionel Messi: Enjoyed a summer rest

The Argentinian scored a first-half hat-trick and combined to set up Alexis Sanchez twice as Barca raced into a 5-0 lead at the break.

Dani Alves then added a sixth from the penalty spot before Vilanova withdrew his stars for a host of youngsters and was rewarded with further goals from Sergi Gomez and Gerard Deulofeu.

Vilanova told the club's official website: "When you have the world's best player, who has this capacity to score goals, he usually marks the difference. He proved it once again.

"We were warned of Raja's quality after watching their match against Athletic Bilbao, but we were ready when we came into the match.

"The young players also always deliver and they played at a very high level."

One man who didn't feature was David Villa as he continues his recovery from a broken fibia suffered in December but Vilanova believes he is making progress.

"We're talking about a serious and long injury," he added. "When he's ready to play, we'll welcome him with open arms. He's made a lot of progress in the last month."

Messi has said that he feels much fresher at this stage of pre-season than he has for a few years having had a summer without an international tournament.

The World Player of the Year was on international duty with Argentina at the Copa America and World Cup in the past two years, as well as the Olympics in 2008, and he believes the rest will do him good once the 2012-13 campaign gets under way.

He told El Mundo Deportivo, "I haven't been able to do a good pre-season for a long time because I always arrived late. It has been very good to have such a long rest."

Messi thinks the transition to Vilanova since the departure of Pep Guardiola has been smooth.

"The way of training has continued in the same way and we are working with the same people so we haven't noted any changes," he said.

"We are in pre-season and so you notice the tiredness. They kept the ball well and made us run a lot but we will get better with every game.

"We are training very hard and we have to continue like that to arrive in the best shape possible for the important matches."