Messi eyes chance at Liga goals record against Eibar


Lionel Messi will have another chance to match or surpass Telmo Zarra’s six-decade-old La Liga scoring record of 251 goals when Barcelona host promoted Eibar on Saturday.

The Argentina captain and four-times World Player of the Year has netted 249 times in the Spanish top flight since he played his first match exactly 10 years ago on a Thursday aged 17.

Messi’s goals — he has 361 overall in 434 official games — have helped the Catalan club win 21 trophies during the past decade, including six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns.

Widely considered one of the best players in soccer history, the 27-year-old has been showered with praises in the run up to the anniversary although his father Jorge insists his son is unaffected either by acclaim or criticism.

“There are times when there is too much praise and other moments when the criticism is excessive,” Jorge Messi said in an interview with Spanish radio on Thursday.

“You have to stop somewhere in the middle and simply look forward,” he added.

“He (Lionel) reads and listens to everyone and I don’t know how he does it but he doesn’t attach much importance to either the good or the bad.

“People don’t know him. He is a very normal lad, like any other. He spends time with his family, he has fun, he tries to enjoy life. He isn’t any different.”

If Messi fails to equal or overtake Zarra’s mark on Saturday, his next chance will be in the La Liga ‘Clasico’ at Real Madrid a week later.

The match falls the day after Luis Suarez’s ban for biting an opponent at the World Cup expires and the Uruguay forward could make his official Barca debut at the Bernabeu.

Barca are looking to bounce back this season after missing out on major silverware last season for the first time in six years.

They have made a solid start under new coach Luis Enrique and are two points clear of Valencia at the top of the standings after seven matches.

Messi has six goals in those seven outings and it is a measure of how high he has set the bar in recent years that his tally this term is considered a meagre one by his standards.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who ended Messi’s four-year reign as World Player by winning the latest award, has a jaw-dropping 13 goals in six La Liga appearances for Real and will be gunning for more when they visit Levante on Saturday.

Real, who appear to have recovered from an early-season wobble, are four points behind Barca in fourth place, with Valencia, who play at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, in second and Sevilla, who are at Elche also on Sunday, third.

Champions Atletico Madrid are fifth, five points adrift of Barca, ahead of their game at home to Espanyol on Sunday.

Diego Simeone’s side slipped to a 3-1 reverse at Valencia in their last match, their first defeat of the campaign.