Words failed many of his colleagues as Lionel Messi broke the Barcelona all-time all-game goals tally with a hat trick in Sunday’s 7-0 La Liga dismantling of Osasuna.
The previous tally of 369 goals had stood for 87 years, and been held by Philippines-born striker Paulino Alcantara, who scored 142 official goals and 227 in friendly games in an era before the Spanish league had been formally established.
Messi’s latest treble took him to 371 goals [344 in official games and 27 in friendlies], at just 26 years of age and in less than nine years as a first-team player.
Monday’s local papers hailed the achievement, with Mundo Deportivo going with a simple ‘Legend -- 371 goals’ on its front page. Sport’s cover read ‘Historic Hat trick -- Messi 371’, while inside the Catalan paper had a graphic breaking down both players’ goalscoring feats.
Messi himself told Catalan station TV3 after the game that he had been well aware that the record was about to fall.
“I had heard everywhere that I was closing in on [Alcantara],” the Argentine said. “When you see you are close you want to do it, for what it means in the history of a club this big. A lot of years have passed since it was reached. Many more years will pass before it is overcome again.”
But he maintained that the three points, with Alexis Sanchez, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez and Christian Tello also getting on the scoresheet, had been the day’s most important development.
“The important thing is that the team keeps winning, we have come from doing impressive things, and winning everything, and we deserve to keep going like this,” Messi said. “I am very happy for the game we played, we came in from another good one against [Manchester] City and we had to improve the image from the last time. Since the game against Valladolid we received a lot of harsh criticism. We know that we were not good, but this gives us confidence again.”
The Blaugrana talisman also said that he now felt fully over his recent injury issues, and dismissed recent speculation which had suggested he was considering a transfer this summer.
“I feel good, in the last two weeks each time I feel better, I hope I can keep going like this,” Messi said. “The injury is passed now and forgotten, I am picking up rhythm and confidence. As long as the people want I will stay here. My intention is to retire with this Barca jersey. I am happy here.”
Iniesta told Canal Plus pitchside reporter that there was little left to say about a player unique in football history.
“It has all been more than said,” the midfielder said. “All the adjectives come up short. You must congratulate him and congratulate Barca for having a unique player.”
Camp Nou coach Gerardo Martino was also lost for words when asked to describe his fellow countryman’s contribution.
“Words cannot describe this,” Martino said. “He will keep playing games like this, and keep beating records. It highlighted the performance of the team.”
Next for Messi could be the all-time ‘clasico’ goalscoring mark held by Real Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stefano , which will fall if he scores at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu next Sunday. Also within range is the Champions League tally currently held by another former Blancos hero Raul Gonzalez , which Messi needs just four more goals to match.
Barca youngster Marc Bartra said breaking records was now an everyday matter for his teammate. “Messi is spectacular,” Bartra told his club’s official website. “Every day he breaks more records.”
Madrid-based AS took a different angle, with its website on Monday morning stating that "Cristiano is chasing down Puskas," pointing out that the Real Madrid star was now just two goals from catching Blancos legend Ferenc Puskas’ mark of 242 goals for the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu club. Ronaldo still has some work to do however to catch Madrid’s all-time record goalscorer Raul [323 goals].