BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid roll to a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao Sunday hours before the Spanish club announced it had signed Gareth Bale to pair him with the Portugal forward in one of the most formidable attacks in football.
Not to be overshadowed by Bale's imminent arrival, Lionel Messi needed 41 minutes to score his 23rd career hat trick for Barcelona in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Valencia.
Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta was one of the first to extend his welcome to the new reinforcement of the defending champion's fierce rivals.
"(Bale) is coming to add his part to this great league," Zubizarreta said. "A player of his talent shows that this league is strong. He will improve the competition."
Silent just after its match against Bilbao, Madrid later announced Bale was leaving Tottenham and signing a six-year contract, ending the longest transfer saga of the offseason one day before the market closed.
Having gone scoreless in Madrid's first two wins to start season, Ronaldo headed in Madrid's second goal in first-half injury time to add to Francisco "Isco" Alarcon's 26th-minute opener from Karim Benzema's pass.
Benzema assisted Isco again in the 73rd for his third goal in as many games since joining from Malaga this offseason.
"Things are going well considering we have just started the season, three for three so far," said the 21-year-old Isco. "We are getting better game by game. That's our goal."
Messi started his treble in the 11th when Sergio Busquets intercepted a pass and shuffled the ball to Cesc Fabregas, who then used one touch to send Messi charging into the area and over goalkeeper Diego Alves before rolling the ball home.
The sequence of Busquets robbing the ball, Fabregas assisting, and Messi scoring repeated itself in the 39th.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino had said after Barcelona's 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid earlier this week that he wanted Messi and Neymar to link up more in attack.
Martino got what he had asked for when Neymar picked out Messi arriving down the middle of the area to slice his pass into the net for his league-leading fifth goal in two games after sitting out one match due to a muscle problem.
But just when it appeared Barcelona would romp, Valencia striker Helder Postiga used an acrobatic volley to pull one back in the 44th before he scored with a header from a corner kick in first-half injury time.
Neymar was involved twice more in almost getting Messi another goal, only to see the Argentine miss both late chances before goalkeeper Victor Valdes was forced to tip the shot by Valencia substitute Jonas off his post four minutes from time.
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