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Messi legend grows with all-time Champions League scoring record

Lionel Messi added yet another record to his already legendary collection after scoring three goals in Tuesday's 4-0 victory for Barcelona against Apoel, taking his all-time Champions League tally so far to a mind-blowing 74, four ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and three ahead of former record-holder Raul Gonzalez.

Whenever Cules begin to feel that there is there is very little more that Messi can do to surprise them, the diminutive Argentinean strikes again, breaks yet another record and rises the bar even further. Having a player of his calibre come through the ranks of La Masia, then excel at a professional level for over a decade, is little short of a miracle. And at 27 years of age, there are still plenty of goals left in his boots to celebrate in the future.

Messi's latest record definitely elevates him further above football's all-time greats when it comes to performances at club level. Legends such as Pele or Diego Armando Maradona were outstanding when representing their home nation in World Cups, but didn't collect as much silverware for the clubs they played for. While this is clearly a never-ending debate which will go on for many years to come, the fact that Messi has become the best ever goal-scorer in the most demanding competition in club football poses a very strong argument in his favour.

Messi's jaw-dropping achievements to date are head and shoulders above the rest from both an individual and collective perspective. Apart from the record he broke on Tuesday, the quadruple Ballon d'Or winner is also Barca's best-ever goal scorer, has been included in the FIFPro World XI every single year since 2007 and has led his club to Champions League glory on three occasions, six domestic league trophies, two FIFA Club World Cups and a total of 21 collective titles.

His mesmerising range of skills and ever-increasing generous attitude toward his teammates certainly make him the best player that the younger generations of football fans have ever witnessed.

Take Messi's Champions League stats, for instance: The No.10 has obviously scored the majority of his goals (59) with his preferred left leg, but also has 11 with his right leg and even four headers. While the majority of his goals (41) were scored in the group stages, his 31 goals in the knock-out rounds and then his two in finals definitely helped bring back those three big-eared trophies back to the Camp Nou museum. At the highest level, where the tiniest details make all the difference, having Messi on your team has proven invaluable over the years.

Move over, Raul; Lionel Messi is the all-time leading scorer in Champions League history.
Move over, Raul; Lionel Messi is the all-time leading scorer in Champions League history.

Despite the overwhelming evidence suggesting that La Pulga's career has already reached legendary heights, many football lovers around the world insist on comparing his progression to that of Ronaldo. Apparently, whatever Messi does must instantly be either mirrored or beaten by the Santiago Bernabeu star.

Real Madrid's No.7 is obviously an incredibly gifted player whose relentless determination and ultra-professional attitude helps him improve on a daily basis, a forward with a killer instinct that every manager would love to have as a weapon in their team. Judging by Ronaldo's desire to mention their rivalry at the slightest opportunity, it is apparent that competing with Messi on an individual level is an important factor which motivates him to improve even further.

However, one gets the feeling that the 2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner does not feel the need to add any more fuel to the fire. His evasive responses when questioned about Ronaldo's progress show that collective achievement features much higher in his order of priorities than lifting a string of awards which he wouldn't be able to win without the support from his teammates anyway.

Anyway, enough of the Ronaldo vs. Messi, Messi vs. Ronaldo rivalry already. Ultimately, they are both fantastic players who fans are lucky to have the chance to cheer on a weekly basis. In a way, the legendary rivalry the media continues to focus on can be compared to that of Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson or Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer. People will undoubtedly have their favourite, which must be respected. As a Catalan-born, life-long Barca fan, however, the choice is fairly clear in my eyes.

Here's hoping for many more years of celebrating Messi goals while wearing the Blaugrana.

The quote: "Messi is a leader and is offering lessons in beautiful football. He has something different to any other player in the world. I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football, and his name is Messi" -- Maradona.

Francesc Tomas is a freelance Catalan columnist who writes for Barcablog.com, WeLoveBarca and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @TomasESPN.

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