Lionel Messi scored a spectacular double the same night he equalled Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record for Barcelona, the Argentinian inspiring his team to a 4-1 win over Huesca on Monday.
Messi tied Xavi’s 767 games in all competitions for Barca and marked yet another milestone with a brilliant brace, a curling effort in the first half flying in off the crossbar at Camp Nou before a late shot nestled in the corner.
“He’s the most important man in the history of Barca,” said coach Ronald Koeman. “Even better that he’s still with us.”
Antoine Griezmann had earlier followed suit with another impressive shot into the top corner before Huesca pulled one back, Rafa Mir converting a doubtful penalty on the stroke of halftime.
But Messi helped Barca pull away, sending in a cross for Oscar Mingueza to head in and then scoring his second as the Catalans moved to within four points of league leaders Atletico Madrid.
Messi’s performance had all the key elements of the 33-year-old’s genius. In a game that celebrated his longevity, he showed his class with perhaps his best goal of the season, his creativity with an assist and his consistency, by making it 13 consecutive campaigns that he has reached 20 LaLiga goals.
“He’s so decisive,” said Huesca’s Mir. “They play with one man extra.”
Huesca stay bottom, four points adrift of safety, while Barcelona continue their own excellent form.
They have now managed 11 wins and a draw from their last 12 matches, putting them within sight of Atletico, who they still have to play at home in May.
Messi should break Xavi’s record on Sunday against Real Sociedad and the club toasted his achievement with a video that included tributes from numerous current and former teammates including Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol and Xavi himself. (AFP)