Messi adorned a brilliant team display with a thumping strike into the top corner in the second half, after Martin Braithwaite had broken the deadlock and Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho had scored either side of half-time.
The Argentine then lifted his shirt to reveal a red and black replica kit of his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys bearing the No 10 which Maradona wore during his brief spell at the Rosario side in 1993.
The Catalans had paid homage before kick-off to Maradona, who played for the club in an eventful yet disappointing spell from 1982 to 1984, hanging a framed signed shirt of his above the presidential box while the players held a minute’s silence in front of an old Barca shirt bearing the number 10.
Barca defender Clément Lenglet limped off with an ankle problem, leaving his side with no fit first-team centre backs due to injuries to Samuel Umtiti, Ronald Araújo, and Gerard Piqué.
“Maradona deserved an emotional tribute like that, we have lost a global idol,” said Coutinho. “Everyone in football admired him and we’ll all miss him.”
Griezmann added: “We didn’t know what Messi had prepared in tribute to Maradona, it was a beautiful surprise. It was very important to win today because the teams at the top keep winning and we can’t afford to slip up anymore. We know it will be difficult but we showed today we want to win the league and have a team capable of doing that.”