Goals record puts smile back on Messi’s face

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER -

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi seemed to have lost some of his in­fec­tious joy in play­ing foot­ball in re­cent times but the smile was firmly back on his face on Satur­day after he broke the six decades-old La Liga scor­ing record.

The Barcelona and Ar­gentina for­ward has had a tor­rid cou­ple of years when he was ham­pered by in­juries, suf­fered a painful de­feat to Ger­many in the 2014 World Cup fi­nal and en­dured off-field prob­lems such as an on­go­ing court case for al­legedly de­fraud­ing the Span­ish tax man.

The 27-year-old raised eye­brows last week when he told Ole he might con­sider leav­ing Barca, but all that was for­got­ten at the Nou Camp as a su­perb hat-trick against Sevilla took him past Telmo Zarra’s mark of 251 goals to a new La Liga best of 253.

Messi’s ador­ing fans chanted his name as he was tossed into the air by his team­mates be­fore they lined up to give the beam­ing four-times World Player-ofthe-Year a guard of hon­our as he left the pitch.

“Don’t ever leave, Leo!” was the front­page head­line in Barcelona-based sports daily Sport on Sun­day.

In a mes­sage on Face­book, Messi thanked all the peo­ple who had sup­ported. He ded­i­cated the record to “the peo­ple who are no longer with us”, a clear ref­er­ence to for­mer Barca coach Tito Vi­lanova, one of Messi’s early men­tors who suc­cumbed to can­cer in April. “Leo is happy to he here and you could see that again tonight,” Barca cap­tain Xavi said. “If Messi is happy, Barca is happy,” added the dec­o­rated for­mer Spain mid­fielder.

Messi also has a share of the Cham­pi­ons League record hav­ing drawn level on 71 goals with for­mer Raul last month.

The Ar­gentina cap­tain can make the record his own in to­mor­row’s Group F match at APOEL Nicosia. – Reuters

LIONEL MESSI

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