Lionel Messi put his summer transfer dispute behind him, Cristiano Ronaldo defied gravity, and Mauro Icardi got back on track for Paris Saint-Germain, but there was a stunning defeat for Bayern Munich on a big weekend in Germany.
In England, Leicester stormed back to the top of the Premier League table by scoring five against a Pep Guardiola team for the first time in the Catalan’s coaching career as Manchester City’s title challenge hit an early stumbling block in a 5-2 defeat.
City conceded three penalties, but none of them were as controversial as the ones that cost Tottenham and Crystal Palace to spark more debate over the new interpretation of the handball rule in the Premier League.
Here are some of the main talking points from the action across the continent:
Messi scores, Koeman off to winning start
After such a turbulent summer, Barcelona could not have asked for a better way to start the season as they crushed Villarreal 4-0 at the Camp Nou, with all the goals in the first half.
Lionel Messi captained the home side and scored a penalty in his first competitive outing since trying, and failing, to force through a move away from his boyhood club.
The early signs are Messi will let his football do the talking in the coming months, which can only be good news for a Barca side beginning life under new coach Ronald Koeman.
Messi was actually upstaged on Sunday by Ansu Fati, with the 17-year-old scoring Barcelona’s first two goals.
“It is always good and important to win matches. If you win, you have tranquility,” said Koeman. For now anyway. The Catalans go to Celta Vigo on Thursday.
Bayern humbled to give hope to rivals
Less than 72 hours after they added more silverware by winning the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla in Budapest, Bayern Munich’s aura of invincibility was blown away in stunning fashion as Hansi Flick’s team lost 4-1 at Hoffenheim.
After 32 games unbeaten, and 23 successive victories in which time they also won the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the Champions League, the Bavarians suffered a first loss since last December.
With Robert Lewandowski left on the bench at kick-off, they suffered their worst defeat since the 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt last November which cost previous coach Niko Kovac his job.
This is surely just a blip for Bayern though, and credit must go to Hoffenheim, for whom Andrej Kramaric scored twice. He now has seven goals in three games this season, after ending last season by scoring four goals against Borussia Dortmund.
Hoffenheim coach Sebastian Hoeness was appointed in the summer, poached from Bayern’s second team. He is the son of former Bayern player Dieter Hoeness, and the nephew of ex-Bayern president Uli.
No case for Man City defence
In his 686th game as a manager with City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, Guardiola was hit for five as his side collapsed when faced with the pace and cunning of Jamie Vardy on the counter-attack.
Vardy scored a hat-trick to take his tally to nine in five seasons against Guardiola’s side, leaving huge question marks over City’s title challenge.
Despite the signing of Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake, City looked even worse at the back than last season as Kyle Walker, Eric Garcia and Benjamin Mendy all conceded rash penalties.
According to reports, Benfica centre-half Ruben Dias is heading for Manchester, while Aymeric Laporte’s return after testing positive for coronavirus will come as a huge relief.
But the arrival of Dias could take Guardiola’s spending on defenders alone at City to £400 million.
The Catalan has been unable to get the best out of John Stones, Joao Cancelo, Mendy and many others and the pressure is on him to turn to his coaching, rather than just the club’s cheque book, for solutions.
Wagner pays price at Schalke
As Germany’s third richest club with a huge fanbase, it was surprising to see Schalke keep faith in coach David Wagner despite a shocking end to last season in which thay failed to win any of their final 16 Bundesliga games.
The ex-Huddersfield Town manager was on decidedly shaky ground before opening the new season with a humiliating 8-0 loss at Bayern. Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat by Werder Bremen means Schalke’s start is the worst in Bundesliga history. Wagner was sacked on Sunday.
“We hoped that we could turn things around. Unfortunately, the first two matches did not produce the necessary performances and results,” said Schalke sporting director Jochen Schneider.
Ronaldo saves Pirlo from first defeat
Juventus needed Cristiano Ronaldo at his best to prevent Andrea Pirlo suffering his first defeat as coach as the Italian champions came from behind to draw 2-2 at Roma.
A Ronaldo penalty cancelled out Jordan Veretout’s spot-kick before the same player put Roma back in front. Adrien Rabiot was then sent off for Juve, but Ronaldo equalised in the 69th minute with a tremendous leap, hanging in the air to head in Danilo’s cross.
Now 35, Ronaldo remains arguably the best header of a ball in the world. Juve, for whom Alvaro Morata started after returning to the club on loan from Atletico Madrid, remain a work in progress though, and it is Napoli who have made the best start to the season. They are top after crushing Genoa 6-0.
Icardi hits back for PSG to answer critics
Mauro Icardi has struggled desperately since Paris Saint-Germain paid a reported 50 million euros ($58.3m) to make his loan move from Inter permanent.
The Argentine looked slow and overweight, was dropped for the Champions League semi-final and final in August, and did not play in PSG’s first two league games this season after testing positive for coronavirus.
On Sunday, though, he got back on track, converting two Kylian Mbappe assists for a brace as PSG won 2-0 at Reims in Ligue 1.
It was PSG’s third straight win, and it was Icardi’s first goals in almost exactly seven months.
Hand-wringing over handball
The Premier League’s adoption of a new interpretation of what constitutes handball is causing consternation just three weeks in.
Tottenham and Palace were the big losers this weekend, but there is already a consensus among coaches that something needs to be done now to prevent farcical scenes from continuing all season.
Joel Ward was harshly penalised for Everton’s winner in a 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park leaving Palace manager Roy Hodgson despairing for the game he’s been involved in for over 50 years.
“I find it very disappointing that the game I love and believe in is being reduced to this level,” said Hodgson. “I have despair about a rule that I believe is ruining the game of football.”
Hodgson has support in Newcastle boss Steve Bruce, even though his side benefitted to snatch a 1-1 draw at Tottenham thanks to Callum Wilson’s 97th-minute penalty.
“I can understand why Spurs will go berserk and Roy Hodgson reacted like he did. It is a total nonsense,” said Bruce. “We should be jumping through hoops, but I would be devastated if that was us.”
(With AFP inputs)