Lionel Messi scored a hat trick to emphatically break the Spanish league’s all-time scoring mark in Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday.
Messi, already Barcelona’s all-time scorer, surpassed Athletic Bilbao great Telmo Zarra’s milestone of 251 goals that had stood untouched since 1955.
Messi equaled Zarra’s mark in the 21st minute and added goals in the 72nd and 78th to claim the record for himself.
“I have never seen a player like Leo,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “He is beyond comparison, one of a kind, never to be seen again. We are lucky to have him here, to enjoy him, and to see where he leaves this record.”
Messi’s record-setting effort eclipsed rival Cristiano Ronaldo becoming the first player to reach 20 goals in the first 12 rounds of a season after he scored twice to keep Real Madrid at the top of the table with a 4-0 win at Eibar.
Madrid leads Barcelona by two points with Atletico Madrid four points adrift after the defending champion beat 10-man Malaga 3-1 at home.
Also, former Manchester United coach David Moyes debuted as Real Sociedad’s new manager with a 0-0 draw at Deportivo La Coruna. Both sides were left one point above the relegation zone.
Messi’s treble came after a week of wild speculation that he was wavering on his once steadfast commitment to Barcelona, following his comments that he might not spend most of his remaining career here.
But the match ended with Messi smiling broadly as his fans chanted his name. Messi’s teammates tossed him in the air after his record-breaking goal, and lined up in an honor guard as he jogged off the pitch while soaking up the Camp Nou applause.
Messi’s night started when he earned a foul from Sevilla’s Ever Banega on the edge of the area. Messi stepped up and curled the ball over the barrier with an elegant strike to claim the history-making goal he had searched for in vain in three previous matches.
Sevilla had yet to manage a shot on goal when Unai Emery’s side was gifted an equalizer from Jordi Alba two minutes after halftime when he knocked in a cross.
Sevilla’s celebration didn’t last long because Neymar headed Barcelona back in front two minutes later when he rose up to score Xavi Hernandez’s free kick for his 11th league goal of the campaign.
Barcelona’s Luis Suarez has been scoreless since his return from his biting ban, but he made up for it by making his fourth assist for Ivan Rakitic to score against his former team in the 65th.
Neymar crossed for Messi to dive and tap home his second goal. Messi then dribbled across the edge of the area to fire in his third and complete his memorable match.
Earlier, Ronaldo continued his own sensational scoring streak that includes him having scored in all 11 league games he has played in this campaign. He has 25 goals from 18 games in all competitions.
The Ballon d’Or-holder passed from an apparent offside position for James Rodriguez to head in Madrid’s first goal in the 23rd minute and Ronaldo put the result beyond doubt two minutes before halftime.
Karim Benzema added a third goal from Rodriguez’s pass in the 69th before Ronaldo got his second from the penalty spot in the 83rd to polish off Madrid’s 14th straight win overall.
“Losses will come, of course. (But) our objective is to keep this run going,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “The season is long and we have to continue with this attitude.”
In Madrid, Tiago Cardoso scored and set up another goal as Atletico ended 10-man Malaga’s winning streak.
Tiago’s header put the hosts in front in the 12th before Arda Turan crossed for Antoine Griezmann to make it 2-0 in the 42nd.
Malaga arrived after a club record five straight wins but Atletico denied the visitors a scoring chance until Roque Santa Cruz struck in the 64th.
Malaga went down to 10 men when Samuel Garcia received his second yellow card in the 73rd, and Diego Godin headed in Tiago’s lobbed pass in the 84th.