Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has admitted his surprise at the speed Andre Gomes and Samuel Umtiti have adapted to life at the Nou Camp, following the duo's contribution to the 7-0 demolition of Celtic on Tuesday night (14 September). The boss was also full of praise for Lionel Messi, after the Argentine scored a hat-trick, calling him "the best player of all time".
Barcelona made eight changes to their starting XI after a fringe team suffered a surprise defeat to Alaves at the weekend. Gomes and Umtiti started ahead of Javier Mascherano and Andres Iniesta, and the pair seized the opportunity with both hands.
Barcelona made six new additions in the summer in the shape of Gomes, Umtiti, Paco Alcacer, Lucas Digne, Jasper Cillesen and Denis Suarez as part of a push to increase squad depth. However, many believe they lack a replacement holding midfielder to back up Sergio Busquets after Sergi Samper was sent on loan to Granada in the dying days of the season.
Sergi Roberto, who has played that role in the past, has become the first-choice right-back, while former Liverpool star Mascherano is now operating at centre-back despite previously being a midfielder.
However Luis Enrique seems to have settled on Andre Gomes as a solution to this problem, with the former Celtic midfielder excelling in that role in the second half against Celtic. He switched to that spot after Rafinha replaced Busquets.
"I liked him a lot at the centre midfield position. I have not asked him whether he has ever played as a holding midfielder," Luis Enrique revealed after the game. "I don't close the door for him to play there in order to give Busquets a rest. Andre is more of an offensive midfielder but he plays well, he's good, and has the physical conditions [to adapt to the position]."
Umtiti has also enjoyed an impressive start to the life at Barcelona, proving he is ready to fight with Mascherano for a starting role along Gerard Pique in the heart of the defence.
"To be honest I am surprised by Umtiti's quick adaption," the Barcelona boss admitted when asked about the performance of the former Lyon star. "[Centre-back] is as a position where the club have always had handicaps. He has surprised me, it's only four or five games but he looks like he has been playing for the club for a while. But we need to be careful when judging new players, though."
Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez grabbed the headlines after the match though, with another marquee performance up front. All three of the MSN scored, and the Brazilian provided four assists to make the trio starting together for the first time this campaign.
Luis Enrique paid a special tribute to Messi amid suggestions Cristiano Ronaldo is set to be named Ballon d'Or for this year.
"Messi plays with complete freedom to change his position as he wants. He's the best in the world in every position," the Barcelona boss stated. "If he plays as a No 9, a No 8 or a No 6, he's the best No 9, No 8 or No 6 in the world. He can judge the perfect pass from 40 yards and put the ball wherever he wants. Messi is total football. That's why he is the best player of all time."