BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Lionel Messi set a La Liga record of 253 goals when he grabbed a hat-trick in Saturday’s 5-1 win at home to Sevilla, the latest milestone for the four-times World Player of the Year.
The previous mark was held by former Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra since 1955, which marked the end of the Spaniard’s 15-year career with the Basque club.
Zarra scored his 251 goals in 277 appearances while Argentina captain Messi, who was 17 when he netted for the first time in Spain’s top flight against Albacete in May 2005, needed 289 games.
“When I scored that goal (against Albacete) I couldn’t imagine I could break any record, let alone this one previously held by the great Telmo Zarra,” Messi wrote on his Facebook page.
“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 any more. I will never forget you. Thank you everyone for standing with me.”
Messi, 27, equaled Zarra’s record in the 21st minute with a typically breathtaking effort, curling a left-footed free kick around the wall and past Sevilla goalkeeper Beto.
He struck again from close range in the 72nd minute and scored a third goal six minutes later with a powerful low drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Messi’s team mates picked him up and threw him into the air several times while his adoring fans at the Nou Camp wildly cheered their talisman who joined the club’s academy at the age of 13.
“We are all very happy and of course also for Leo,” Barca captain Xavi told reporters.
“He has achieved an amazing and historic record,” added the decorated former Spain international.
Messi has scored 206 goals with his favored left foot, 38 with his right, eight with his head and one, which should have been ruled out, with his hand.
He also matched former Real Madrid and Schalke 04 forward Raul’s Champions League record of 71 goals last month and could break it in Tuesday’s Group F game at APOEL Nicosia.
Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Ken Ferris