Madrid: Barcelona's trip to Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday for their La Liga tie saw Argentine forward Lionel Messi score his 30th hat-trick for the Catalan side and 22nd Primera Liga hat-trick, to be just one hat-trick behind Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.
The treble against Deportivo makes it 30 official matches were Messi has scored three or more goals for the Catalan club. It was also his 22nd hat-trick in La Liga, putting him just one hat-trick shy of Ronaldo's record of 23 trebles. The Barca forward is now level with Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra and Real Madrid great Alfredo di Stefano.
In addition to this, Messi has scored two hat-tricks in Argentina colours, taking his career total to 32.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi (right) celebrates with teammate Neymar after scoring against Deportivo during a La Liga match at the Riazor stadium in A Coruña, Spain, on Sunday. Pic/AP
In a change from his much criticised rotation policy, coach Luis Enrique named the same side that beat Atletico 3-1 at home last weekend and was rewarded with another bright display illuminated by Messi's class in front of goal.
The Argentine's first effort of the game was brilliantly saved by Fabricio after a well-worked corner, but the Deportivo goalkeeper was helpless when the four-time World Player of the Year opened the scoring after 11 minutes with a thunderous header from Ivan Rakitic's cross.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner then showed a more subtle touch for his second with a delicate chip over the prone Fabricio to double Barca's advantage from Neymar's pass.
However, by contrast, Luis Suarez's troubles in front of goal continued as he fluffed his lines twice in the first-half with just Fabricio to beat.
Messi showed the Uruguayan how it should be done once more when he rounded off his 30th hat-trick for the club after the break when he cut inside onto his favoured left foot and fired into the far corner before an own goal from Deportivo defender Sidnei rounded off the scoring.
Enrique hailed Messi's consistent brilliance this season after the Argentine took his tally to 28 goals in 27 games.
Messi and Enrique's relationship has reportedly been frosty since the four-time World Player of the Year had been left on the bench for his side's 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad earlier this month. However, Enrique has repeatedly insisted Messi remains the best player in the world and refused suggestions he has taken his form to another level over the past week with another stellar performance after vanquishing La Liga champions Atletico Madrid last weekend with a goal and two assists.
"Messi has been at an extraordinarily high level all season," said Enrique, despite reports of a dressing room rift between the two in recent weeks. "He hasn't dipped at any point. He has been world class."