This past Saturday, as has been the case multiple times before, another record fell at Camp Nou. Lionel Messi broke the La Liga all-time goalscoring record with a hat-trick in a comfortable Barcelona FC 5-1 home win over Sevilla.
His first tally of the night brought him level with Telmo Zarra, the Athletico Bilbao forward who held the record of 251 goals in a storied La Liga career. In the 21st minute, Barcelona won a free kick about 25 yards out. As Messi stepped over the ball, the stadium that has been home to countless moments of Messi magic over the past ten years fell silent, knowing this could be one of the most memorable moments of them all. The Argentinian delivered, doing what he has done so many times before from a set piece. The ball left the inside of Messi’s left boot, sinning and dipping over the outside of the Sevilla wall into the top corner of the net, a classic Messi free kick goal.
History was made in the 71st minute with Barcelona coasting to another league victory. Messi received the ball at the half and ran forward as the central man in a trademark three man counterattack. He slipped the ball to Neymar on the left, who took one touch and played it back across the face of goal. Too fast for the Sevillian defense, Messi slid into the six-yard box to poke the ball into the bottom corner. His teammates converged on him, lifting him up and throwing him into the air in celebration.
The look of pure childish joy that this moment elicited from one of the greatest players in the world defines Lionel Messi’s legendary career. Season after season, goal after goal, the smile has remained on the face of a boy from Rosario, Argentina. The way Messi plays the game, how he dazzles opponents with the quickest of feet and sharpest of cuts, before cheekily chipping the ball over the keeper or guiding a pinpoint shot into the corner of the net, is played with a sense of limitless freedom and creativity. This scampering, dizzying style of play was on full display in his third goal of the night.
Only six minutes after his second, the man that is so intimately called La Pulga by Barcelona and Argentina faithful, produced a gem of a goal to cap off his record-breaking night. He received a pass on the right wing and began to cut inside along the top of the box, evading defender after defender while keeping the ball on the tip his left foot at all times. Upon reaching the middle, he played the ball forward on the ground to Neymar who, with his back to goal, immediately returned the pass to Messi’s back foot. In one beautifully swift movement, while running at full speed, the Barcelona #10 set the ball in front of him with his first touch and finessed it into the bottom-right corner of the goal with his second, leaving the Sevilla keeper with no chance.
Congratulations Lionel, you have achieved an incredibly great feat, and once again made magic swirl in the winds of a Barcelona night.