YOKOHAMA (Japan) • Lionel Messi marked his return from illness with a brilliant goal as Barcelona beat Argentina's River Plate 3-0 to capture a record third Club World Cup.
The Spanish football giants welcomed back Messi yesterday after a bout of kidney stones and the mercurial Argentinian scored with a clinical finish on 36 minutes, before a lethal Luis Suarez double destroyed River's hopes.
"We came here to win the title and it was important to get the job done," said Suarez, who picked up the player of the tournament and golden boot awards after finishing with five goals.
"We stayed calm and played our game until Leo scored the first goal.
"More than my goals, it was just important to get our hands on the trophy," he added.
Neymar, himself returning to the side after a groin strain, was instrumental in Barcelona's opener, climbing to knock down a Dani Alves cross for Messi to steer past River goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero with a deft flick of his left boot.
Suarez, who scored a hat-trick in Barca's 3-0 semi-final win over Guangzhou Evergrande, scored a second with a fierce low drive four minutes into the second half.
The former Liverpool striker grabbed his second of the night when he dispatched a thumping header past Barovero after a pinpoint cross from Neymar.
River's starting XI cost a total of US$6 million (S$8.48 million) while Barcelona paid US$85 million for Suarez alone, and the gulf in class showed.
The Catalan side, who had already collected the Champions League, Spain's La Liga and Copa del Rey and European Super Cup this year, tore River, who flew in 16,000 fans from Buenos Aires for the match, to shreds in the second half. Neymar also came close to scoring with a curling effort that shaved the bar.
Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was a spectator for much of the game on a cold night.
But he made an acrobatic save from River substitute Gonzalo Martinez seven minutes from time to deny the South American side a consolation goal.
Messi, who forced a smart save from Barovero in the early skirmishes and could himself have finished with a hat-trick, became the first player to score in three finals after leading Barca to victory in 2009 and 2011.
Barca become the first team to win the trophy three times, surpassing the two titles won by Corinthians. Messi, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique are now the only players to collect three winners' medals.
"Messi and Neymar wanted to play in the final, no matter what," said Suarez.
"It shows the sacrifice that there is in the group that they did everything to play."
The Uruguayan warned that Barcelona were still hungry for more success. "After a competition like this, the majority of teams have a dip," he said. "But we have to avoid that and we have the desire to keep winning titles and be the best team in the world."
In the third-place play-off, Brazilian substitute Douglas scored a late double as Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima stunned Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN