Barcelona - If anyone had said when a callow teenager called Lionel Messi netted
his debut La Liga goal in May 2005 he would break Telmo Zarra's
top-flight scoring record within a decade they would have been dismissed
as a lunatic.
Yet that is what the pint-sized 27-year-old
Argentine achieved when he scored a hat-trick in Saturday's 5-1 win for
Barcelona over Sevilla at the Nou Camp, moving to 253 goals and
surpassing Zarra's haul of 251 over 15 seasons for Athletic Bilbao in
the 1940s and 50s.
Messi equalled the record with a typically
breathtaking effort, curling a free kick around the wall and past
goalkeeper Beto to give Barca a 1-0 lead.
He struck again from
close range in the 72nd minute and scored a third goal six minutes later
with a powerful low drive from the edge of the penalty area.
team mates picked him up and threw him into the air several times while
his adoring fans wildly cheered their talisman who joined the club's
academy at the age of 13.
He has taken 10 seasons to overhaul
Zarra - also setting a remarkable record for goals in a single campaign
of 50 in 2011-12 -- and the illustrious names he has leapfrogged give
some indication of the scale of his feat.
The likes of Hugo
Sanchez (234 goals), Raul (228), Alfredo Di Stefano (227) and Cesar
Rodriguez (226) have been left trailing and, with years left in his
career, Messi's eventual tally could stand as long as Zarra's if not a
Messi also has a share of the Champions League scoring
record, having equalled Raul's haul of 71 goals this month and he could
overhaul it in Tuesday's game at APOEL Nicosia.
A glance at the
numbers shows Messi's goals per game ratio in La Liga is second only to
Zarra's who amassed his 251 in a mere 277 matches while the Barca
attacker needed 289 games.
Sanchez's 234 came in 347 matches, Raul needed 550 games to reach 228 and Di Stefano required 329 for his 227 goals.
who has watched Messi in recent years knows he can do things with a
football that seem to defy the laws of physics and he does not fit into
the mould of a traditional striker.
Most of the other players at the top of the charts were considered out-and-out goalscorers while Messi tends to roam the pitch.
ability to dribble at speed past opponents is outstanding and as well
as netting a phenomenal number of goals, he regularly sets up team mates
"Messi has something magical about him when the ball
touches his feet," former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said.
"It's as if it has landed on a bed of feathers."
playing style to some of La Liga's previous top marksmen is problematic
as relatively little television footage exists of the likes of Zarra,
Di Stefano and Cesar.
Di Stefano, who died this year aged 88,
perhaps had the strongest all-round game and was often seen bossing the
midfield and tackling back in defence as well as bearing down on goal.
of Zarra's greatest moments was for Spain against England at the 1950
World Cup in Brazil when he scored in a 1-0 win at the Maracana.
stadium later became the scene of Messi's greatest disappointment when
Argentina were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the final of the latest edition
A grainy black and white film on YouTube shows the stocky
Zarra scoring the only goal from close range, the typical poacher's
effort of a born goalscorer more in the mould of a Gerd Mueller or a
Messi has netted plenty of similar efforts but,
unlike Cesar for example, who was known for his aerial strength, he
rarely scores with his head and a large number of his goals have come
after trademark darting runs from the right wing.
typically left flailing at thin air when the Argentine speeds across the
penalty area and when he finds space to shoot he rarely misses the
"Messi is a genius," said Franz Beckenbauer, a World Cup winner with Germany as player and coach.
has everything. When I watch him I see a player who is very, very
skilful, very clever and his left foot is like Diego Maradona's."