LONDON (AP) — Barcelona and Lionel Messi lead the Associated Press global football poll this week after thrashing Rayo Vallecano 6-0 in a match where the Argentina striker scored twice.
Messi, who was runner-up in last week's poll, heads the player honors this week with nearly more than twice as many points as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund in second. It was the first time Messi has scored in three consecutive games since September and he appears to have hit form at just the right time.
"With Manchester City to come in the Champions League on Tuesday, this Barcelona team were perhaps looking for a way to remind everyone of how impressive they can be," Chris Tait of The Herald in Scotland said. "A 6-0 home win ought to have just about covered it."
Leonardo Bertozzi of ESPN Brazil agreed, highlighting how crucial the return to form of Messi could be. "The Argentine appears to be rediscovering his best game at the right time: near the clash with Manchester City, which will be critical for the wishes of Barcelona," Bertozzi said.
Barcelona, which also has midfielder Andres Iniesta in seventh in the player poll, was 16 points clear of second-place Bayern Munich. Bayern goes into its clash with Arsenal in the Champions League on the back of a 4-0 win over Freiburg. Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored twice for Bayern, was third in the player vote but will miss the game against Arsenal through injury.
Third place in the team list goes to Manchester City for knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup 1-0. "Manchester City were surprisingly comfortable victors over Chelsea in Saturday's FA Cup tie," Julian Bennetts of Hayters news agency said. "Manuel Pellegrini clearly learned the lessons of his side's Premier League defeat to the same side a fortnight previously."
Jese of Real Madrid is tied fourth with Dominick Kumbela of Eintracht Braunschweig on 49. Kumbela scored a hat trick as his side overcame Hamburg in a 4-2 win - a result that caused Bert van Marwijk to lose his job as Hamburg coach.
The 20-year-old Jese took only five minutes to open the scoring for Real away to Getafe, as it won 3-0 to keep up with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the Spanish league. He has risen from 10th position in the poll last week.
"Jese is gaining more and more attention as he keeps on scoring and having an immediate impact on games," Aurelio Capaldi of RAI Sport in Italy said. "It's also impressive the way Madrid are capable of surviving without Cristiano Ronaldo."
Madrid polled fourth in the club rankings, while Atletico, which beat Valladolid 3-0, is ninth. Serie A leader Juventus is fifth after a 3-1 win against Chievo, with second-place Roma ranking eighth after its 3-0 win against Sampdoria.
Elsewhere in the player poll, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is sixth on 44 after scoring one goal and creating another as Arsenal avenged its 5-1 loss to Liverpool the previous weekend with a 2-1 victory at home in The FA Cup.
Diego Costa is eighth after scoring in Atletico's win over Valladolid, while Roma's Mattia Destro and Monaco's James Rodriguez finish the player rankings in ninth and 10th respectively. Napoli is 10th in the club poll after beating Sassuolo 2-0.
AP Global Football 10 rankings, week ending Feb. 19:
1. Lionel Messi, 136 points.
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 67.
3. Xherdan Shaqiri, 56.
4. Domenick Kumbela, 49
Jese, 49 (tied).
1. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 44.
2. Andres Iniesta, 35.
3. Diego Costa, 30.
4. Mattia Destro, 27.
5. James Rodriguez, 25.
1. Barcelona, 143.
2. Bayern Munich, 127.
3. Manchester City, 100.
4. Real Madrid, 95.
5. Juventus, 60.
6. Borussia Dortmund, 56.
7. Arsenal, 54.
8. Roma, 47.
9. Atletico Madrid, 42.
10. Napoli, 33.