Lionel Messi owns La Liga's goal record but his best is still to come
The city of Barcelona, Catalunya and millions of Blaugrana supporters around the globe are still buzzing after witnessing the magical hat-trick which enabled Lionel Messi to break Telmo Zarra's all-time La Liga goalscoring record -- as well as helping his team to the much-needed 5-1 home win against Sevilla on Saturday.
Understandably, football fans around the world have been eagerly celebrating such a historic achievement. Despite Barca's No.10 tendency to break a new record pretty much on a weekly basis, you know it is a massive deal when you wake up the next morning to find Messi's face splashed all over the front cover of virtually every media outlet on the planet.
Fortunately for Cules, Messi continued to build on his legendary Blaugrana career with another mind-blowing hat-trick against Sevilla, one of the most dangerous and well-organised sides in Spanish football. Even more impressively, it felt that the Argentinean captain was also trying to showcase part of his jaw-dropping goalscoring catalogue by netting his first after an inch-perfect free-kick, his second after a quick passing sequence and closing his tally after another classic slalom from the right wing followed by a traditionally lethal finish.
The overwhelmingly positive reaction from the Camp Nou towards their best ever player was apparent before, during and after the game. The highly-demanding home crowd decided to show their undying love for the most decisive footballer in over 110 years of history with countless banners, proud chants which resounded all over the stadium and even a video message once the match was finished.
Still only 27 years of age, Messi has already achieved much more than most other professionals could only dream of by the time they retire. His legendary career can only be compared to that of the sport's greatest ever players, such as Pele, Johan Cruyff or fellow Argentinean Diego Maradona. His status as Barca's best ever player is also unquestionable.
Lio's influence from a collective perspective is invaluable. The 21 titles won since his professional debut at only 17 years of age, including three Champions Leagues and six Liga trophies, would certainly not be standing proud in the Camp Nou museum without Messi's influence. His tendency to raise his game under pressure has made the difference between failure and success more often than not. Whether the challenge was to dribble the whole of the Real Madrid defensive system in the 2011 Champions League semifinals or to win the Club World Cup in extra time by chesting the ball into the back of the net, Messi always stepped up and came to the rescue.
Such excellence has, as it couldn't be any different, also brought him an unprecedented amount of recognition at individual level. His 368 goals in 441 Barca appearances (plus 45 goals in 96 matches for Argentina) have granted him a jaw-dropping four consecutive Ballon d'Ors and being included in the FIFPro World XI for each and every one of the last seven years, among many others.
As if the above wasn't enough, Messi also holds the record for the most goals scored in a single calendar year (91), most goals in a season (68), Champions League all-time top-goalscorer (71, joint with Raul), most goals in El Clasico (21) or most consecutive rounds scoring at least one goal in La Liga (21).
More encouragingly, La Pulga continues to be as hungry for victory as ever and is truly determined to excel with the Blaugranas on a weekly basis. Despite the initial shock, Cules certainly hope that his enigmatic words while away on international duty are nothing more than a momentary slip-up, a reminder for the board to make a couple of necessary tweaks in order to ensure the No.10 plays a key part not only is the team's present, but also the future in years to come.
After years of being pretty much unstoppable as a false striker, the truth is that Messi has found it increasingly hard to break defences when positioned too close to rival centre-backs. The arrival of Neymar and Luis Suarez respond to a direct need for Barcelona to become more direct, dynamic and less predictable. As a result, coach Luis Enrique is currently experimenting with positioning the Argentine as either as a wide winger with freedom to dribble towards the center or as a second striker positioned several meters behind Suarez and in front of the interior midfielders.
Change is a process that takes time, but fortunately Messi has the correct attitude and supports the manager's judgement as, ultimately, all involved understand such evolution is essential. In football, as in life, those who stand still eventually get caught, then left behind.
Messi has already written his name in golden letters in Barca's history books. Having said that, and judging by the facility in which he has continuously reinvented himself based on his team's needs, there are enough reasons to believe his best is still to come. Sure, his stamina and pace may gradually drop but, considering his virtually unlimited amount of talent and humble spirit, the sky is the limit as he becomes a more mature, generous, experienced player.
Que la leyenda continue, Leo!
The quote: "I have never seen a player like Messi. I feel lucky to be his manager. Nobody can be compared to him. He's one-of-a-kind and we'll never see anyone like him ever again and we are privileged to have him and be able to watch him. Messi will hold this record for a long time, and it will likely never be broken" -- Enrique.