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 on Sunday.
The Spanish giants welcomed back Messi after a bout of kidney stones and the mercurial Argentine 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.
“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.”
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 fifth goal in Japan when he guided a thumping header past a beleaguered Barovero after a pinpoint cross from Neymar.
Barca goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was a spectator for much of the game on a cold night. But the Chilean made an acrobatic save from a shot by River substitute Gonzalo Martinez seven minutes from time to deny the South Americans 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.
“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.”
Barcelona added the world title to a host of other titles they have collected this year — the Champions League, Spain’s La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the European Super Cup.