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Barcelona wore T-shirts in support of Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba on Tuesday night before Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in the 5-3 victory over Granada to top Barcelona’s all-time goals chart.
Messi has now found the back of the net 234 times for the European champions, his second goal at the Camp Nou eclipsing CĂ©sar RodrĂguez’s previous record of 232, which had been in place since the 1950s.
The 24-year-old has now scored 34 goals in 27 league games this season, two more than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and the diminutive Argentinian has been eulogised as the finest player to have ever graced the game.
The BarĂ§a manager, Pep Guardiola, said: “There are no players capable of dominating a sport with such superiority … Messi can be compared to [the former US basketball star] Michael Jordan.”
Johan Cruyff added: “Messi is by far the best player in the world. He is incomparable, he plays in a different league.”
Messi’s hat-trick also set a Spanish record of 54 goals in all competitions in a single season with more than two months of the campaign remaining.
After Xavi HernĂĄndez’s fourth-minute opener, Messi made it 2-0 in the 17th minute but Granada pulled a goal back in the second half when Diego Mainz nodded in from a free-kick and the visitors grabbed a shock equaliser from the penalty spot seven minutes later after Daniel Alves fouled Daniel BenĂtez.
Guilherme Siqueira kept his nerve to beat VĂctor ValdĂ©s and make it 2-2 before Messi restored BarĂ§a’s lead just over 20 minutes from time. He sped clear from an Alves pass and lifted the ball over the Granada goalkeeper JĂșlio CĂ©sar to set a new all-time scoring record before the substitute Cristian Tello made it 4-2 in the 82nd minute when he followed up Messi’s angled strike.
Messi completed his hat-trick four minutes later, his 234th BarĂ§a goal in official matches, and in an eventful finale Alves was shown a second yellow card and dismissed for a handball in the area. Siqueira beat ValdĂ©s from the spot for a second time as Granada became the first team to put three goals past BarĂ§a at the Camp Nou this season.
Real Madrid play their game in hand at struggling Villarreal on Wednesday and have 71 points from 27 matches. BarĂ§a, chasing a fourth successive title, have 66 from 28 games.