Barcelona defender Dani Alves believes the Spanish giants can get even better as they adjust to the methods of new coach Gerardo Martino. The Catalans got their UEFA Champions League campaign off to the perfect start with a 4-0 thrashing of Ajax on Wednesday, thanks in large part to a hat-trick from FIFA Ballon d'Or holder Lionel Messi.
However, despite also maintaining a 100 per cent record in La Liga and winning the Spanish Super Cup so far this season, Alves believes there is still plenty for the Spanish champions to improve on.
"I think it is fundamental to win as we are improving and correcting things," he said. "We are in a transitiona period and we are still looking for our best level. It is difficult, but we are on the right track because we are winning.
"We are introducing new things to overcome the opponents, alternating the ideas we had but still with the objective of having possession of the ball. Right now we know what we lack. Sometimes we are not co-ordinated when we press, our lines are too far apart, but we are improving every day."
Messi's 27th career hat-trick came just 24 hours after Cristiano Ronaldo has notched his 23rd treble in Real Madrid's 6-1 hammering of Galatasaray. The Argentine was far from the only star on show for the hosts, though, as Victor Valdes continued his stunning early season form with two smart stops in the first-half before he denied Ajax a consolation goal by saving Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's 77th minute penalty.
Valdes has still not yet managed to dislodge Iker Casillas as Spain's number one despite the latter's lack of playing time at Madrid. However, Alves insisted that in his eyes Messi and Valdes are the world's best in their respective positions.
"Messi and Valdes help us a lot, that is why they are there and are the best in the world in their positions. On top of Messi's goals and the penalty though, I am also left with the effort of the team because we had a very strong opponent in front of us.
"In the first-half we needed to be more intelligent, if you can't press perfectly you have to drop back and organise. But in the second-half we improved and the coach set us up in a better manner."
It was another harrowing experience for Ajax in Spain after being on the wrong end of a number of heavy beatings from Real Madrid in recent seasons. However, coach Frank de Boer was pleased with how his side played in spells.
"It is a shame that in the second-half we didn't start well," he told a press conference. "I am a little disappointed in the way we conceded the three goals in the second-half and to not have scored given the chances we had. You can never be happy with a 4-0 defeat but I saw some good things to build on in the upcoming games."