MADRID (AFP) — Lionel Messi thanked teammates and coaches past and present after becoming the all-time leading goalscorer in La Liga with a hat-trick in Barca’s 5-1 demolition of Sevilla on Saturday.
The 27-year-old Argentine’s opener brought him level with Telmo Zarra on 251 goals in just his 289th appearance in the Spanish top flight.
Messi then went on to score his side’s fourth and fifth goals to register his 27th Barcelona hat-trick and put him out in front as the leading marksmen in the history of Spanish football.
“When I scored this goal, I couldn’t imagine I could break any record, let alone this one previously held by the great Telmo Zarra,” he wrote on his official Facebook page alongside his first Barca goal against Albacete in May, 2005.
“I was only able to achieve this because of the support I have had from so many people during my time here and I would like to dedicate this achievement to you all.
“Thanks for always being with me. I would also like to dedicate this to the people who are no longer with us anymore. I will never forget you. Thank you everyone for standing with me.”
Current Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has only had the pleasure of coaching the four-time World player of the Year for a matter of months, but believes he will be remembered as the best of all time.
“He is a unique and unrepeatable player,” said Enrique, who hailed his side’s display as one of the best in his short tenure.
“I can’t compare him to any other player I have seen before and I have seen plenty.
“I have known for a long time that I haven’t seen a player like him and now I have the pleasure to see him train everyday.”
Enrique also batted away suggestions that Messi’s future may lie away from the Camp Nou after comments he made in the past week.
Messi refused to rule out a move before the end of his career, despite signing a new four-year deal with the Catalan giants in May.
“Football is full of unexpected twists and turns,” Messi told Argentinean newspaper Ole.
“It is true that I said I would like to stay there forever, but sometimes not everything turns out the way you want,” he added.
However, Enrique’s immediate focus is on moulding his star front three of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez to pose a significant title challenge to the in-form Real Madrid.
“Leo knows he is very loved here,” added Enrique.
“The present is with the best player of all time with us. We continue working and trying to win titles at the end of the season.”
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu also dismissed rumours over his prized asset’s future, claiming it was an ongoing investigation for tax fraud that had unsettled the player rather than anything on the field.
Messi and his father have been accused of not paying 4.16 million euros ($5.26 million, £3.26 million) in tax on earnings from the player’s image rights from 2007-2009 through the creation of a web of shell companies in Belize and Uruguay.
“I think he will finish his career here. He has a contract with us and he is happy,” said Bartomeu.
“He wants to continue, but there are non-sporting reasons that we don’t like and we are going to defend him in every arena.
“He is a spectacular player. I don’t have the superlatives left to describe the best player in the history of Barcelona and of world football. He has demonstrated it and he is still young. He still has many more years of scoring goals and we have many more years to enjoy having him.”