Lionel Messi was honoured to equal Xavi’s record as Barcelona’s all-time leading appearance-maker as he inspired the LaLiga challengers to a 4-1 win over Huesca on Monday.
Messi was the star of the show at Camp Nou, scoring two goals and setting up Oscar Mingueza as rock-bottom Huesca struggled to contend with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
His brace took him to 21 for the season in LaLiga, with 14 of those scored since January 1 – in that time, Messi’s 13 goals from open play means he has out-performed his xG value by 6.6.
The first goal of the day secured a slice of history for Messi, who became first player in LaLiga history to net 20 times in 13 successive league campaigns.
Messi also had 124 touches of the ball on Monday, the most he has recorded in a single league game this term, further proof of his exceptional influence.
But the most significant stat of all was the fact Messi was playing his 767th game for Barca across all competitions, bringing him level with club great Xavi – he can set a new record at Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Reacting to the achievement after the game, Messi wrote on Instagram: “It is a great honour to reach this number of games played for Barcelona.
“Thanks to all of the colleagues who have accompanied me in these years, and to my family and friends for always being by my side.”
This time last year, Pedri was playing in La Segunda with Las Palmas – now he is a regular alongside Messi in the Barca first-team.
Many are tipping the youngster – who earlier on Monday received his first senior Spain call-up – to have a long and illustrious career at the club, and who knows, potentially even get close to 767 of his own Barca appearances.
But for now, he is just relishing seeing Messi in the flesh, soaking it all in as he paid tribute to the Argentinian.
“I enjoy every game and every training session of Messi,” he said. “I try to find him because he is the best and he shows it every game.
“Every time he touches the ball something can happen and that is why I look for him. It is crazy what he is achieving – he is the best in the world.”
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 15, 2021
The win over Huesca moved Barca to within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have only won two of their previous five league games.
Barca are now second in the table and have not lost since early December.