Lionel Messi received praise from all quarters after his hat-trick helped FC Barcelona to a record-breaking 16th straight Liga win, with Club Atlético de Madrid the champions' latest victims.
Saturday's 3-0 triumph took Barcelona past the previous Spanish best of 15 successive league victories set by Real Madrid CF in 1960/61, and Atlético coach Quique Sánchez Flores compared Messi with the star of that fabled Madrid side. "He's the Alfredo di Stéfano of the 21st century," the former Madrid defender explained. "He plays how he wants and when he wants."
Barcelona 700th Liga victory at Camp Nou helped Josep Guardiola's side maintain a seven-point cushion over Los Merengues at the top of the standings, but after stating that "beating a 50-year-old record is a truly wonderful thing", the coach's thoughts turned quickly to the 23-year-old Messi. "We just wouldn't be the same without him," Guardiola said. "We'd still be a very good team but this guy is just on a different plane to the rest.
"Every great side throughout history had a player who made the difference; Messi is that player for us," he added. "We're so lucky to have him, especially at the age he's at, but at the same time Leo knows that without the rest of his team-mates, he wouldn't be who he is."
The hat-trick was Messi's fourth of the season in all competitions; his sixth treble in the Liga also saw him surpass the five racked up by past Camp Nou heroes Patrick Kluivert and Romário. The Argentinian international's 24 league goals this season mean he is level with Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Pichichi and ESM Golden Shoe titles, though those honours are low down his list of priorities.
"The last thing I'm worried about is finishing the season as top scorer," Messi said. "What is important is that we stay on this run. It is an absolute honour to have beaten the record of Di Stéfano's Madrid and you can bet we are going to enjoy it."
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