Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick last weekend in Barcelona’s 7-0 destruction of struggling Osasuna.
The Argentine superstar repeated that feat Sunday, leading his team to a 4-3 victory against Real Madrid in “El Clasico.” The two games’ settings were different, but the outcome was the same. Messi scored, Barcelona won and records fell.
After the game, a reporter asked Barcelona head coach Gerardo “Tata Martino” to asses Messi’s performance and his standing in the sport. Martino gave a fitting answer to a question he regularly faces.
“It’s difficult to talk about him,” Martino said, according to Sky Sports. “You run out of things to say. He is still breaking records. He plays so many great games, especially when it counts.”
Martino shares the same problem soccer scribes around the world have when it comes to Messi: How do we describe a player who demonstrates his enduring excellence — game-in, game-out, Clasico-in, Clasico-out — without repeating words and phrases?
I stopped trying a long time ago because human language hasn’t evolved quickly enough to allow me to do so.
Messi broke Paulino Alcantara’s 87-year-old Barcelona record last week to become the top goal scorer in club history.
But Messi, 26, isn’t one to rest on his laurels — not even for a week. There’s no time for that.
“El Clasico” is one of world soccer’s marquee games, as hundreds of millions of fans tune in to watch the array of stars which populate the both teams’ lineups. They include Messi’s eternal rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA World Cup winners like Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, as well as Neymar and Gareth Bale, who joined Barcelona and Real Madrid last summer in two of the most expensive transfers in history.
Predictably, Messi outshone them all. His passes set up Andres Iniesta’s first-half goal and Neymar’s run, which led a penalty kick in the 64th minute. Messi converted the penalty kick to tie the game at 3-3. Messi then returned to the penalty spot 20-minutes later to score the game-winner.
When the dust settled, Messi and Barcelona were victors and more records had fallen.
Messi’s latest hat trick pushed him ahead of two Real Madrid legends. Messi passed Alfredo di Stefano to become the top goal scorer in “El Clasico” history with 20. He also displaced Hugo Sanchez as the second highest goal scorer in La Liga history. He has 236 career goals in the Spanish top-flight, and there are plenty more to come.
The age-old “Messi or Ronaldo” question remains. Messi won this round, but the soccer world won’t agree on an answer any time soon. All we can do is watch intently, as Barcelona and Real Madrid chase the same major honors over the next two months. They’ll meet again at the Bernabeu on April 19 in the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) final. They also could face off in the UEFA Champions semifinals or final.
Messi will play a decisive role. He always does. After all, he is arguably the greatest player to ever play the game.