Courtesy FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi continues to re-write the Barcelona record books and his latest achievement undoubtedly ranks as the highest of all. His 17th minute side-footed volley in a 5-3 victory against Granada last night brought him level with previous top goalscorer Cesar Rodriguez on 232 competitive goals for the club. A further two goals helped him to complete an outstanding eighth hatrick of the season to take him two clear of the Spanish forward who plied his trade for the Catalan club between 1942-55 before becoming coach during the 1963-64 season.
However, what is most astounding is the fact that Messi has accomplished this feat at the age of just 24, ten years younger than when Cesar Rodriguez acquired the same total. The Argentinian talisman, in his eighth season at Barcelona, has now scored 54 goals in all competitions this season, with two months still remaining. To put that into perspective, he has scored 34 league goals alone this campaign; a figure that eleven La Liga clubs have yet to reach.
The World Player of the Year recently crushed the Champions League record for the most goals in a single game, when he converted five at home against Bayer Leverkusen in a 7-1 win in the knockout stages to send his side through to the quarter-finals. His twelve goals in this season's elite European club contest equals the best total in a Champions League campaign and with the quarter-finals against AC Milan followed by potential semi-final and final ties yet to come, it would be surprising if Messi did not surpass this landmark. He is currently the fourth highest goalscorer in the history of the competition (inaugurated in 1992) with 49 goals, 22 behind ex-Real Madrid forward Raúl but Messi is showing no signs of relent as he continues to improve season after season.
The Pulga Atómica (Atomic Flea), which he is nicknamed to describe his small stature but quick, darting movements and ability to find the smallest gaps in the defence, has now scored 154 goals in his previous 153 games, a staggering record and he is hardly known as the fox-in-the-box striker. With a powerful pinpoint shot, quick feet, slalom dribbling and surprising aerial ability, the boy from Rosario truly is the complete attacking package and has the composure and intelligence to unlock any defence.
In what was a historic evening at the Camp Nou last night, Messi was the subject of utmost praise from his manager and fellow teammates. "He's the best [ever], there is no other like him. We'll never see a player like him again. The throne belongs to him and only he will decide when he wants to relinquish it," stated Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "There are no players capable of dominating a sport with such superiority...Messi has entered the history of the club at just 24 years of age. If he continues like this in the coming years, he will score so many goals that he will never be surpassed."
Victor Valdes was another keen to respect the accomplishments of his teammate, claiming that "Messi is defining an era. He is the best."
It really is a frightful prospect for the rest of Europe when they consider that Messi is yet to reach his 25th birthday and for the unforeseeable future, it seems that he will continue to destroy opposing defences with his footballing genius.