Ernesto Valverde and Lionel Messi
Valverde and Messi during a Barcelona training session Getty

Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez has credited manager Ernesto Valverde behind the club and Lionel Messi's scintillating form in the 2017/18 season so far.

Valverde came in at the start of the season to replace Luis Enrique, who had departed in the summer after a disappointing year that saw the Catalans only win the Copa del Rey.

With immediate pressure on him, Valverde has instead, virtually steered his undefeated side to a La Liga title within the first half of the season.

Barcelona most recently defeated Real Madrid 3-0 at the Bernabeu to take their points tally to 45 points from 17 games, having only failed to win three league games so far.

The win on Saturday (23 December) also saw La Blaugrana extend their lead over current champions Madrid to 14 points, having played an additional league game, and nine points over second-place Atletico Madrid.

Having yet to suffer defeat in the Champions League either, Xavi believes Valverde's management and belief in the Barcelona philosophy is a major reason for both the club's and Messi's success this season.

"Valverde? He believes in the Barca model 100 per cent," Xavi told La Vanguardia. "He's revitalised their style. The positional game has regained importance and Messi is the one that causes chaos for their opponents.

"The wide players also have a bigger role to play as they attack the space now. There's also Paulinho coming from behind..."

Despite the absence of Neymar following his summer move to PSG, Messi has continued to be a driving force for Barcelona this season with 19 goals in 25 games in all competitions so far.

Xavi had only praise for his former teammate, adding how he still believes the Argentine is the best footballer of all time.

"Messi? Leo can do whatever he wants," Xavi explained. "Look at how he always wins the ball when he goes to dispossess his opponent.

"He's the total footballer, the best in history, a wonder. He was the perfect winger and now he does everything through the middle.

"The team look for him. He touches the ball more than ever. On top of all that, he's a good guy. His behaviour on and off the pitch is exemplary."