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Not for the first time the talk around FC Barcelona is about Lionel Messi following his latest goalscoring exploits. The man himself is as eager as ever to share the limelight with his team-mates, however, and focus on Wednesday's Group H opponents FC Viktoria Plzeň, who have their own 'Messi'.
The Argentina striker moved ahead of László Kubala and into second place on the Catalan giants' all-time scoring list with a goal in each half of Saturday's 3-0 victory over Real Racing Club. It took his tally to 196 for the club and Messi now has César Rodríguez's 56-year record of 235 in his sights. At this rate – he has played 281 games to date – he will pass it before his 25th birthday next June.
Nothing could be further from his thoughts, though. "As I've said a few times now, my aim for the season is not to score 39 more goals. The more I score the better, for me and the team, but we shall see if I break César's record," he said. "I am not really interested in winning individual awards and prizes: I want team titles, more and more. Prizes shouldn't be just for me, but for all the players – we play as a team; we win as a team."
Messi is similarly dismissive about talk of a rivalry with Real Madrid CF forward Cristiano Ronaldo. The Barcelona No10 does not have to provide additional layers of intrigue, ulterior motives and other ambitions; for him the game remains beautiful in its simplicity. "Our motivation is always the same. Every day, in every training session, the coach looks to see how we can improve, how we can give more, how we can win more.
"So for Plzeň, as with all our opponents, we will watch the video the coach has prepared, showing how they play and how we can beat them. Plzeň played great against AC Milan, especially in the first half [before losing 2-0]. We'll try to play the way we always do, with plenty of possession. We want to win both matches against Plzeň to qualify for the next round; then we can focus on the league and cup ahead of [December's FIFA] Club World Cup."
Messi stresses that it will not be easy, not least because his side must overcome a man in his own image. The 22-year-old Václav Pilař is known as the 'Czech Messi' due to a physical resemblance and similar playing style, if not yet those goals. An ever-dwindling list from the game's annals can draw favourable comparisons on that front.
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