‘Messi back to his blistering best’

Lionel Messi is “back to his blistering best” after another record-breaking night for Barcelona, says La Liga TV presenter Semra Hunter.

Messi wrote his name into the history books once again on the weekend – surpassing Xavi’s record for the most individual appearances for Barcelona in the club’s history – as he marked his 768th game in Sunday’s 6-1 win over Real Sociedad with two goals.

Messi, linked with a move to Manchester City and out of contact this summer, has now scored 663 times for Barca, the most ever by a player for one club after he passed Brazil legend Pele’s record of 643 for Santos earlier this season.

He is comfortably La Liga’s record goalscorer with 467 and is also second all-time in the Champions League, with 120 to his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s 134.

Messi has won Spain’s Pichichi trophy, for the league’s top scorer, on seven occasions and top-scored in the Champions League six times, including 2014-15 when he shared the honour with Ronaldo and Neymar.

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Asked if people were becoming desensitised to Messi’s greatness, La Liga expert Hunter told Sky Sports News: “No, I should think not! We are enjoying every moment of it. He is back to his blistering best once again.

“It is another day in the extraordinary life of the Argentine. He has had such an incredible run of form since the start of 2021. He has scored or assisted in every single league game.

“You just never tire of seeing it, apart from that huge smile and the way he celebrates with his team. It wasn’t one landmark he reached last night – it was several.

“He’s now scored 467 goals – the most in a single European league. It’s been lovely to see. Barcelona are playing their best football in a long time.”

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Messi’s 2011-12 season, when he scored 73 times in 60 games for Barca in all competitions, remains an astonishing high watermark. He has passed 50 on five other occasions, with four more campaigns in the 40s and over 30 in every completed season since 2008-09 – a mark he is on the verge of repeating, with 29 in all competitions so far this term.

Messi has won 33 major trophies with Barca, when including domestic and European super cups and the Club World Cup in that definition.

They have won La Liga in 10 of the 17 seasons since he broke into the first team, with six Copa del Rey triumphs and four domestic doubles along the way.

Seven Supercopa wins boost Messi’s total to 23 honours in Spain – Barca have won eight in that time, but he did not play in the two-leg 2005 win over Real Betis.

He has added another 10 continental or inter-continental successes, with Barca winning the Champions League in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015 and adding both the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup after the latter three of those.

Messi has also won the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the world’s best player, on six occasions including four in succession from 2009 but his domestic successes are in stark contrast to his barren trophy cabinet with Argentina, which contains just an Olympic gold medal from 2008.

Messi has scored 48 hat-tricks for Barca, including 36 in La Liga, with another six for Argentina taking him through the half-century mark for his career as a whole.

He has scored four goals on six separate occasions – in league games with Valencia, Espanyol, Osasuna and twice against Eibar, plus a Champions League win over Arsenal in 2010. He also recorded one five-goal haul in Europe, against Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 second leg in 2012 as Barca won 7-1 and 10-2 on aggregate.

Valencia have been on the receiving end of four of Messi’s hat-tricks, with three each against Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Osasuna, Espanyol and Deportivo La Coruna.

He has also scored twice in a game on an additional 133 occasions with a record 95 of those coming in LaLiga, following his efforts over the last week.