Still only 24, Lionel Messi became FC Barcelona's 234-goal leading scorer on Tuesday after hitting his eighth hat-trick of the season in a 5-3 Liga victory against Granada CF.
The giant screen inside Camp Nou read "Enhorabona Leo" (Congratulations Leo); the crowd bowed in Messianic unison. Messi had entranced again, the Argentinian's three-goal haul moving him two clear of the club's previous record holder, César Rodríguez, and on to 54 for the season.
"We are looking at the very best in every sense," said Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola of his No10. "He can do absolutely everything and he does it every three days. I'm sorry for whoever wants to occupy his throne but this guy is simply the best. Here's hoping he can continue to thrill football fans for years to come."
Messi's Barcelona career has had no shortage of high points; here are five of the best:
1. First official goal
Messi struck his first competitive goal for Barça on 1 May 2005 aged 17 years, ten months and seven days in a Liga game against Albacete Balompié at Camp Nou. Ronaldinho provided the assist, lifting the ball over the defence for a floppy-haired Messi to clip a brilliant lob over the goalkeeper and into the empty net.
2. Clásico hat-trick
Messi has scored several stunning goals against Real Madrid CF, including a wonderful solo effort in last season's UEFA Champions League semi-final, but his home treble in March 2007 was extra special. Madrid led three times but Messi kept pegging them back and his added-time equaliser made it 3-3 as he became the first player to score a Clásico hat-trick in 12 years.
3. Emulating Maradona's wonder goal
In April 2007, in a 5-2 victory over Getafe CF in the Copa del Rey, Messi scored a breathtaking goal reminiscent of his compatriot's effort against England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Shaking off two markers in his own half, he raced towards goal, swerved away from two defenders on the edge of the area and rounded the goalkeeper before lifting the ball into the net from a narrow angle.
4. UEFA Champions League goals
Messi has been top scorer in Europe's elite club competition the past three seasons and is leading the way again this term, having struck 12 goals to take his career total to 49 in 64 games. Having put four first-half goals past Arsenal FC in April 2010, a fortnight ago he became the first player to score five in a UEFA Champions League game, Bayer 04 Leverkusen the victims.
5. Big-game performances
Messi has a useful habit of producing in big games for the Blaugrana, as he proved in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg versus Madrid last season. He scored a goal in the 2009 and 2011 finals against Manchester United FC, the first a headed effort that left Edwin van der Sar rooted to the spot and the second a powerful strike from distance.
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