Goal machine Messi leaves La Liga greats trailing

Sat Nov 22, 2014 3:32pm EST
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By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - If anyone had suggested when a callow teenager called Lionel Messi netted his debut La Liga goal for Barcelona in May 2005 he would equal Telmo Zarra's Spanish top-flight scoring record within a decade they would have been dismissed.

Yet that is what the pint-sized 27-year-old Argentine achieved when he scored from a free kick in the 21st minute of Saturday's game at home to Sevilla to match Zarra's haul of 251 goals over 15 seasons for Athletic Bilbao in the 1940s and 50s.

Messi equaled the tally with a typically breathtaking strike, curling the ball around the wall and past Sevilla goalkeeper Beto into the net to give Barca a 1-0 lead.

Messi has taken 10 seasons to catch Zarra -- also setting a remarkable record for goals in a single campaign of 50 in 2011-12 -- and the illustrious names he has overhauled give some indication of the scale of his feat.

The likes of Hugo Sanchez (234 goals), Raul (228), Alfredo Di Stefano (227) and Cesar Rodriguez (226) have been left trailing and, with years left in his career, Messi's eventual tally could stand as long as Zarra's if not a lot longer.

Messi also has a share of the Champions League scoring record having equaled Raul's haul of 71 goals this month and could overhaul it in Tuesday's game at APOEL.

A glance at the numbers shows Messi's goals per game ratio in La Liga is second only to Zarra's, who amassed his 251 in a mere 277 matches, while Messi needed 289 games.

Sanchez's 234 came in 347 matches, Raul needed 550 games to reach 228 and Di Stefano required 329 for his 227 goals.   Continued...

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates his goal against Sevilla during their Spanish first division soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona November 22, 2014.    REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino