MADRID • The day before his side hosted Barcelona, Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli joked that Lionel Messi's supremacy necessitated two Ballon d'Or competitions, "one for Messi and one for everyone else".
The Argentinian's words rang true as his compatriot turned Sunday's Spanish Primera Liga encounter with the Andalusian side on its head, engineering a 2-1 comeback victory for Barcelona.
Barca looked there for the taking after Vitolo's 15th-minute goal and were drowning in the home side's unrelenting pressure, only spared by some wayward finishing.
But, as half-time approached, Messi sparked a surge, combining with Denis Suarez and Neymar to equalise with Barca's first clear effort on goal.
It was also the Argentinian's 500th Barcelona goal.
The 29-year-old took hold of proceedings in the second half, crafting two unfulfilled chances for himself before teeing up Luis Suarez to secure Barca the winner, which kept them just two points behind leaders Real Madrid,
Sevilla, for all their early confidence, had no response.
"When a player like him takes a game seriously, it's very difficult for his opponents," said Sampaoli.
"Messi is a world-class player and when the game opens up there's little you can do to stop him, nor his team-mates because they can really punish you."
Barca coach Luis Enrique praised the little magician for yet another match-winning display.
"Messi's capacity to interpret any situation is remarkable. There's nobody like him. Our aim is to look to give the ball to him as often as we can," Enrique said.
He also defended Messi for a controversial yellow card for time wasting late in the game.
The Argentinian was adjudged to have taken too long to get his boot back after being tackled by Steven N'Zonzi, and he threw it away in frustration after being cautioned.
Said Enrique: "Sometimes the rules harm the player who is the victim. The laces on his shoe were broken and he had to leave the pitch for it. Leo was all fired up and did not want to leave us a man down.
"The rules are wrong. But the referee has to apply the rules and the players have to accept it."
Sevilla president Pepe Castro lamented his side's inability to finish Barcelona off, but was also in thrall to Messi.
"Messi is an extra-terrestrial. The first time he touches the ball, it's a goal," he said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE