BARCELONA: Leo Messi has made it. After a week in which his future with Barcelona came under scrutiny, the Argentinian scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 thrashing of Sevilla which established a Liga record of 253 goals writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
In front of his own fans at Camp Nou Messi matched the record of old Bilbao hero Telmo Zarra when he scored his 251st goal by curled home a delightful free kick to give Barcelona a 21st-minute lead.
A Jordi Alba own goal in the 47th minute pulled Sevilla level briefly before Neymar headed in a Xavi free kick two minutes later. Uruguay forward Luis Suarez, still to find the net for his new club, set up Ivan Rakitic to head a third in the 65th minute and Messi completed his 30th career hat-trick with goals in the 72nd and 78th.
Coach Luis Enrique could not find adequate words, saying: “Messi cannot be compared with any other player I have seen. He is unique. We have him now and we enjoy him. I thought nobody would overtake Zarra and look what happened.”
How long Barcelona may enjoy Messi’s goals remains uncertain after suggestions that he might consider leaving Spanish football because of a continuing dispute with the courts over his tax liabilities.
However his father sought to play down concerns this week. Jorge Messi said: “The thought is to stay here [in Barcelona]. But, as people read between the lines there is exaggeration. It’s clear that if tomorrow the club says to you ‘we have this offer, we want to sell you’, it would have to be studied. Although right now it is not even on the agenda.”
Messi, born on June 24, 1987 in Rosario, joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000 and shone in the youth ranks before then-coach Frank Rijkaard gave him his senior debut at 16 in a friendly against Porto in 2003. He made his league debut in October 2004 and scored his first goal the following May against Albacete at the Nou Camp.
He did not feature in Barcelona’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League final but emerged to play a key role as the club claimed a unique six trophies in the calendar year of 2009 including the Champions League, La Liga, the King’s Cup and the Club World Cup. That same year he won the first of four consecutive FIFA World Player awards.
Further successes followed in Club World Cup and UEFA Champions League as well as in the Spanish league and cup. He also secured an extraordinary record of 91 goals in all competitions in 2011, a record for a calendar year. That included progress towards a Liga season record of 50 goals in 2011-12.
This month he equalled the Champions League scoring record of 71 goals set by former Real Madrid and Schalke forward Raul when he struck twice against Ajax Amsterdam.
Only the World Cup – in which Argentina were runners-up in Brazil in July – has eluded him in a career laden with 21 club prizes, two national team titles (world youth and Olympic) plus around 100 individual awards.
Ronaldo and Real march on
Meanwhile . . . Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice himself – the second and fourth goal, from a penalty – as leaders Real Madrid won 4-0 at Eibar. James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema scored the other goals as the European champions recorded a 14th victory in a row in all competitions.
Top-flight newcomers Eibar’s entire squad is worth roughly as much as the €20m annual wages of Ronaldo who is Liga top scorer with 20 goals, nine more than second-placed Neymar from Barcelona.
Madrid, the world’s richest club, lead Barcelona by two points after 12 matches in which they have amassed 46 goals.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti said: “A defeat will come of course but our goal is to continue this run. All the players are doing fantastic work.”
David Moyes was denied a win on his debut as coach of Real Sociedad when the Basque club shared a 0-0 draw at promoted Deportivo de La Coruna.