Barcelona: It was Lionel Messi`s saddest week. Defeat to Real Madrid in the Clasico at Camp Nou saw Barcelona relinquish La Liga and there was further personal pain as the Argentine missed a penalty and saw his side lose out to Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals. There were tears of tristesse, there was sorrow and there was suffering. And two days later, Messi was left inconsolable as Pep Guardiola announced his decision to leave the Catalan club this summer. Leo`s life had looked so perfect. Now, on the football field at least, it was falling apart.
Two goals in the 7-0 rout of Rayo on Sunday barely brought a smile back to Barca - or to Messi - but as the Camp Nou crowd celebrated their coach on Wednesday, there was some cheer for their prized player as well.
Messi`s hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Malaga will not stop Madrid from winning La Liga, but it did bring another accolade to the Argentine: he is now the highest-ever scorer in a European campaign with 68 goals this term (including a record 46 in the Primera Division, and an all-time high of 14 in the Champions League).
When Leo struck 53 in 2010-11 to tie with Cristiano Ronaldo on goals scored last season, he was still only 23. "I have yet to reach my peak," he claimed. Such a statement must have represented a petrifying prospect for rival defences. How many goals would he hit in the coming campaigns?
The sky, it seems, is the limit for the brilliant Ballon d`Or winner of the last three years. Having surpassed his high from 2010-11 and reached 60 strikes in early April, Gerd Muller`s all-time mark of 67 looked set to be smashed sooner or later.
And now it has been. Having failed to net in either of the games against Chelsea and also in the Clasico at home to Madrid, Messi has hit five in his last two appearances to rewrite the record books once more and move to within two goals of 70 for the season, with a possible three further fixtures yet to play.
And while he was unable to inspire his side in the decisive dates recently, the Argentine has been instrumental this term as Barca have added the Spanish Supercopa, the Uefa Super Cup and the Club World Cup to their trophy collection, with the possibility of a Copa del Rey to come in what will be Guardiola`s last match as coach.
So as the Camp Nou lamented the loss of the two top titles and the dignified departure of their best-ever boss, there remain reasons to be optimistic, starting with their Mr Messi. He`s going nowhere. And that`s surely the best news of all for Barcelona.
Everyone else, meanwhile, should just sit back and enjoy this wonderful player and his amazing achievement: Messi is the greatest goalscorer the game has ever seen - and this record may never, ever be broken.