Messi, King of the stats

Messi has already scored 71 goals in 2012 and is now just four away from Pelé’s long-standing record

He has also now scored more hat tricks than any other player in the Club’s history

Here’s everything you need to know about these and other stats from Saturday’s match

– Saturday night’s hat trick means that Messi has beaten his own goal-scoring record. He’s scored 59 league goals up to now for Barça in 2012 – one more than in 2010.

– In total, Messi has scored 71 goals (12 with Argentina) and is just four goals short of Pelé’s record. ‘O Rei’ scored 75 goals in 1959.

– Messi (11 goals) is the top scorer in the Spanish League, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo (9) and Falcão (8).

– His latest hat trick means that Messi has scored three or more goals in 15 league matches, overtaking the record previously held by César (14). It was Leo’s first hat trick this season.

– Cesc Fàbregas provided the assist for 0-1, 0-3 and 2-4, all in the first half.

– Saturday night’s match set a new scoring record in Corunna. Until now, the most goals scored had been seven (0-7 in 1955/56 and 1-6 in 1956/57).

-It’s the second time Barça has won an away match 4-5. We have to go back to the 1963/64 season and the match against Levante to find the same score line.

– In the last six games that followed on from an international break, Barça has won all six.

– Tito Vilanova has equalled the best ever debut of a Spanish coach in the first Division: 7 victories and one draw set by Díaz Novoa in 1979 with Sporting Gijón.

– Mascherano was red-carded for the second time as a Barça player. The first sending-off happened on 11 February 2012, away to Osasuna (3-2). Strangely enough, it was the same referee on both occasions.

– Barça hasn’t conceded 4 goals since 1st March 2009, when Atletico Madrid won 4-3 in the Vicente Calderón.

– It’s the first time since 2002 that Barça has conceded 11 goals in the opening 8 matches.

Sports Illustrated senior writer talks about FC Barcelona's growing popularity in the United States

Grant Wahl / PHOTO:
Grant Wahl, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and author of ‘The World’s Team’ article, talks to about the Club’s growing popularity in the United States

“Barça has a fascinating story, both historically and in recent years, and it’s clear that the club is a part of the U.S. sports culture now,” says the author

“Messi has gotten big in North America. One survey has shown that Messi is more popular in the U.S. than NBA star Dwyane Wade and all but two baseball players”
“We were hoping to give our readers an inside look at perhaps the most successful team in any sport globally over the past five years”
““Barça has a fascinating story, both historically and in recent years, and it’s clear that the club is a part of the U.S. sports culture now”

Grant Wahl, author of Sports Illustrated’s exposé on FC Barcelona that hit the stands last week, sat down with to talk about Barça’s growing popularity in the United States.

While football is by no means foreign to the magazine, content has historically focused on sports that are popular in North America like american football, basketball, baseball and hockey, among others, which makes Wahl’s nine-page article on Barça all the more interesting. The author explains that “Sports Illustrated has shown a growing interest in soccer over the last 10 years, and we were hoping to give our readers an inside look at perhaps the most successful team in any sport globally over the past five years.” Wahl adds: “Barça has a fascinating story, both historically and in recent years, and it’s clear that the club is a part of the U.S. sports culture now. You see Barça shirts everywhere in New York City these days.”

La Masia, a perplexing and intriguing concept for the American public

FC Barcelona’s commitment to its famed youth program hasn’t gone unnoticed on the other side of the Atlantic either. “Most top European clubs—Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea—are lucky to have even one homegrown player in their starting lineups. But La Masia’s track record of developing champions is unprecedented, the evidence visible every time FC Barcelona takes the field,” writes Wahl in his Sports Illustrated piece. When asked about what he thinks will surprise the American public the most about his article, Wahl says “the success of La Masia and the idea that so many players on Barça’s senior team started at La Masia in their early teenaged years. It’s hard for us to imagine players on the New York Yankees or Miami Heat or New England Patriots being part of the club since they were 12 years old—mainly because that would never happen.”

It’s not just La Masia that’s making waves in the U.S. but one of its most accomplished and talented graduates is as well: “Messi has gotten big in North America. One survey has shown that Messi is more popular in the U.S. than NBA star Dwyane Wade and all but two baseball players.” Wahl also notes that “Iniesta isn’t as big as Messi here, but soccer fans know Iniesta well, and general sports fans know him as the guy who scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup.”

Football’s growth in the U.S.

While the MLS, the professional football league in the U.S., plays a large part in the continuing growth of the sport in North America, Wahl notes that “television has played a major role” in bringing European football to American shores. He adds: “You can now see up to 80 live broadcasts of soccer games every week on television in the United States. Ten years ago there might have been four or five live games on television every week. All of Barça’s games are on TV in the States, so we can see this amazing team just as much or more than any other country.”

Even though it’s a bit more difficult for football-loving Americans to watch La Liga after beIN Sports scooped up the rights to broadcast the league in the country, Wahl says that the situation “will change as the channel gets more providers. Fewer people watch the Spanish league here than the English league, but there are still a good number of viewers for Barça games, especially those against top Spanish league opponents and in Champions League.”

You can read Grant Wahl’s The World’s Team article in its entirety here.

Cesc: “Winning the three points was the most important thing”

Cesc Fàbregas i Messi han estat protagonistes a Riazor / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The midfielder, who gave three assists, was one of the best players on the pitch in Barça’s 4-5 victory over Deportivo

Messi scored another hat-trick and he broke his personal goal-scoring record in a calendar year (set in 2010), which now stands at 59 goals: “Statistics are only numbers. I’m only concerned with winning the three points whenever possible”

Celtic FC clash on the horizon

Barça will start preparing for this Tuesday’s Champions League match against Celtic FC after the team returns from La Coruña. On Sunday, at 12.00, the first team will train at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.

Cesc Fábregas was one of the standout players on the pitch against Deportivo de la Coruña last night. Playing in the midfield, the Catalan put in a solid performance and gave three assists. After going up 0-3, Barça saw its lead cut down to two after a penalty was awarded to the home side, but Cesc said that “in general our first half was excellent. With the exception of a couple of plays, we dominated and we were the superior side.”

“I’ve always been confident in my ability and I’ve been working really hard. Since the start of the season I’ve been very comfortable with the system,” said Cesc. When asked about the controversial calls, the midfielder only said that “these things are a part of football.”

The Catalan commented that “we won the three points, and it was very hard, but it’s clear that we have to analyse the four goals that they scored on us.” In the second half Tito Vilanova brought in Xavi for Cesc to give the midfield more continuity. On the manager’s decision to sub him off, Cesc said: “When Xavi comes in for you, you can only sit and enjoy his football.”

Messi’s three decisive goals

Leo Messi once again played a crucial role in Barça’s victory. Beyond securing the three points with his hat-trick, he also set another personal record. With 59 goals scored in so far in 2012 for Barça, the Argentine has beat the record he set in 2010, when he scored 58. The new mark, however, isn’t important for Barça’s hero: “Statistics are only numbers. I’m only concerned with winning the three points whenever possible.”

The match at Riazor came after the international break, a precursor that the Argentine was well aware of: “It’s always important to win after international breaks because we come back tired and it’s difficult to win the three points.” When asked about the referee’s performance, Messi simply said: “The referee’s job is extremely difficult. I’m told that the two yellow cards [for Mascherano] could very well have not been called, but we shouldn’t spend time thinking about it.”

Here are the statements made by FC Barcelona players after the 4-5 victory over Deportivo de la Coruña:

Cristian Tello:

“We jumped to a big lead really early but after two isolated plays we were in trouble again”

“I’m very pleased that I scored and for the confidence the manager has in me. I like to help the team and I hope I can continue doing it for years to come”

“It’s always more difficult to win the three points after international breaks, we have to be positive about our victory”

Andrés Iniesta:

“We could have killed the game off in the first half, but Deport are dangerous and they caused us a lot of problems on defence”

“We’re leaving with the sensation that we won a very difficult match”

“We have to learn a lot of things from this match”

Jordi Alba:

“It was a very hard-fought victory, but it was very important. The important thing is that we won the game and that we’re returning with the three points”

“At 2-3, the game was fairly even and it ended up being a crazy game”

“My own goal was bad luck. I didn’t want to pass the ball to Valdés”

“The team played an excellent match but we conceded four goals”

“Leo is the best player in the world at the moment”

Tito Vilanova praises his players for exhibiting a “desire to keep on winning”

Tito Vilanova, en el transcurs del partit contra el Deportivo/ FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The manager praised his players for the attitude and the fighting spirit they displayed after Mascherano was sent off early in the second half

“I’m very pleased with their desire to win when everything was going against us”, said Tito Vilanova

“Víctor is a high-quality player, he’s been performing at a high level for years, there is no doubt about how good he is”
“I’m sticking with how hard Messi worked, after playing for his country, and how hard his team-mates worked”

After the victory at Riazor by 4 to 5, Tito Vilanova was satisfied with the attitude his players displayed on the pitch, especially after Mascherano was given his marching orders at the start of the second half, when the score was 3-4: “These players, after everything that they’ve won, coming back from playing for their countries, and with 10 men on the pitch, they showed that they are eager to keep on winning. They showed their desire when everything was going against us, playing a man down for so many minutes.” He added: “I’m sticking with how hard Messi worked, after playing for his country, and how hard his team-mates worked.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Barça play this way”

Despite admitting that he would have preferred to “not concede so many goals,” Vilanova praised his men for how they played in the first 20 minutes of the match: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Barça play like this. Our opening 20 minutes were spectacular. We had the game controlled and we were playing at a very high level. We even had the chance to make it 0-4, but then the penalty was called. From that point on, the game got a bit crazy.”

When asked about Víctor Valdés’ performance against Deportivo, the manager could only praised his keeper: “Víctor is a high-quality player, he’s been performing at a high level for years, there is no doubt about how good he is.”

The substitutions

Vilanova explained why he subbed off Cesc Fàbregas for Xavi Hernández: “Cesc, with the desire he has to play, kept on pushing forward when we were down to 10 men. He played an excellent match. We needed someone to help Sergio, and the man for the job was Xavi. We was fresher and he was able to help us.” After Mascherano was given his second yellow, the first two players to be subbed in were Pedro and Adriano: “I sent Pedro in because he allows us to play on the wing, and Adriano because we were down a man on defence and Xavi because he has more ball control.”

Deportivo – FC Barcelona: Monument to football (4-5)

FC Barcelona won 4-5 at the Riazor with a brilliant performance of attacking football crowned by a Messi hat trick and strikes from Alba and Tello

In an astonishing game in La Coruña, Barça took three points after nine goals, a red card, a post, yet another exhibition from Messi and a series of gaffes that kept Deportivo in with a chance right until the end of an exhilarating 90 minutes. After leading 0-3 and then 2-4 at the break, Tito Vilanova’s side overcame Mascherano’s red card and some bad luck in their own box as the leaders came away with the points with a Messi hat trick to remain unbeaten so far this season.

Brilliant start

Barça came out on fire and were three up after just 17 minutes, with goals from Jordi Alba, Tello and Messi. The first, after just three minutes, came when Cesc set up Alba who showed his attacking instincts from the off and the second saw Tello skilfully leave two defenders flailing to fire low past Aranzubía, whilst Messi got the third with a powerful strike from the edge of the box after a clever one-two with Cesc. After just over a quarter of an hour the game looked to be done and dusted with Barça looking comfortably in control and finding acres of space in the hosts defence.

Deportivo hit back

With the home fans beginning to show their dissatisfaction, Deportivo hit back on 25 minutes when the ref reckoned Mascherano’s foul on Riki was in the box and Pizzi gratefully stepped up to score from the spot. That gave the hosts a boost and they upped their game and grabbed a second when Álex Bergantiños pounced on a loose ball in the box after a corner.

2-4 at the break

From 0-3 to 2-3 and Barça had to get their game back into gear if they wanted the points and that’s when two of the stars of the night –Cesc Fabregas and Leo Messi – linked up again to give the Argentinean his second of the game and re-establish the two goal cushion at the break.

Mascherano red card

However, things just got worse for Barça at the start of the second half, when Pizzi hit home a great free kick to make it 3-4 after just a minute and moments later Mascherano saw his second yellow. Tito Vilanova was quick to react though, bringing on Adriano to play alongside Song at the heart of defence, as well as Pedro and Xavi to try and wrest back control.

Excitement till the end

With Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta in the middle, Barça calmed the game down and Messi hit the woodwork before making it five after a brilliant jinking run. Surely the points were safe now? No – Jordi Alba ended up putting a goal through his own net and with ten minutes to go Deportivo threw everything – including keeper Aranzubía -at the Barça goal in search of the draw that wouldn’t come and Barça came away with the points after 90 minutes of incredible football.