Spain wonders how far Messi can go
Madrid: Lionel Messi wrote his name in the Barcelona record books by scoring his 234th goal for the club on Tuesday and at just 24, players, fans and media are wondering how good the three-times World Player of the Year can become.
Messi scampered to the rescue of his team with a hat-trick at home to lowly Granada in La Liga, his first goal equaling Cesar Rodriguez`s 60-year club scoring mark of 232 before two more in the second half gave him sole possession of the record.
His goals helped deliver a 5-3 victory that kept Barca in the hunt for a fourth consecutive league title, and set a Spanish record of 54 goals in all competitions in a single season with more than two months of the campaign remaining.
The Argentine maestro also overhauled Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of La Liga scoring charts on 34 goals.
"At 24 years of age it is impossible to know what his impact on football will be," daily El Pais wrote.
"At the moment he is the best in the world, and he aspires to be the best of all time."
Messi has won everything there is to win at club level but the debate over whether he is the best of all time will rage on. Some say he has to perform in a World Cup finals with Argentina before he can be considered the greatest.
Barcelona-based sports daily Mundo Deportivo seemed to have already made their minds up.
"On Twitter yesterday it was written that Messi is the only player better in real life than on `Playstation,`" they wrote.
"With his goals, work, assists, playing football like one does in the playground, he is the number one."
A breakdown of his goals by Spanish daily El Correo showed that after scoring his maiden goal with Barca aged 17 at the end of the 2004-5 season, he went on to net 41 times in the next three campaigns.
The turning point in his career came with the arrival of coach Pep Guardiola at the beginning of the 2008-9 season.
The former Barca and Spain midfielder specifically built the team around Messi, and the forward`s strike rate rocketed from 38 in Guardiola`s first year to 47 and to 53 last season.
Messi already has a Spanish record 54 goals this term with 10 league games, the King`s Cup final and at least two more Champions League games left to play.
He has scored 189 with his left foot, 34 with his right, nine with his head, one with his chest and one with his left hand, El Correo said.
Aside from all the records and statistics, his Barcelona team mates simply enjoy being around him.
"It`s a pleasure to be able to share a dressing room with him, I feel privileged," Spain defender Gerard Pique told the club`s television station.
Two of Barca`s new youth team recruits, Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca, joined in the praise.
"Leo is just how you see him on the pitch, a straightforward person, very friendly with his colleagues," said Tello.
Cuenca added: "We`ll have to wait many years to see anyone match what Messi has done."