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The Argentine, still only 24, surpassed Raul and Andriy Shevchenko with his late strike away to Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night

ANALYSIS
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor
 
Goles, it is often said in the Spanish-speaking world, are amores. And if that is indeed the case, Lionel Messi surely has plenty of love in his life right now.

The Ballon d'Or winner scored an incredible 53 in all competitions last term and has already added an astonishing 37 in 2010-12 for Barca, playing - as always - with plenty of heart.

So it is perhaps fitting that on Saint Valentine's Day, the much-admired Argentine created his own celebration of love by breaking yet another record, as he surpassed the mark set for goals scored in the knockout stages of the Champions League in Germany on Tuesday, with his 19th strike in games played at the business end of the tournament.

Messi had scored six against Arsenal and 12 others before Tuesday, versus Real Madrid (two), Manchester United (two), Bayern Munich (two), Celtic (two), VfB Stuttgart (two), Lyon (one) and Shakhtar Donetsk (one), to bring up 18 in total, leaving Leo level - at the age of just 24 - with Raul and Andriy Shevchenko, now in their mid-30s and on the verge of retirement from the game.

THE TOP FIVE SCORERS IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE KNOCKOUT STAGES


PLAYER CLUB
PERIOD  GOALS
Lionel Messi  Barcelona  
2005- 19
Raul Real Madrid/Schalke
1995- 18
Andriy Shevchenko
D. Kiev/AC Milan/Chelsea
1994- 18
Filippo Inzaghi
Juventus/AC Milan
1997- 16
Wayne Rooney
Manchester United
2004-
14

Messi now has 44 goals in Europe's premier club competition, leaving him sixth on the tournament's all-time list of top goalscorers - behind Raul (71), Ruud van Nistelrooy (56), Thierry Henry (55), Shevchenko (48) and Inzaghi (46) while Cristiano Ronaldo, incidentally, is in 10th place with 31. But almost half of his goals have come in the knockout stages, which is a measure of Barca's success in the competition over the last few years.

Messi missed the latter stages of the Catalans' 2006 win due to injury, but was instrumental in both the 2009 and 2011 successes, scoring in the two finals against Manchester United and netting a delightful double at Real Madrid in last year's semi-final showdown at the Bernabeu.

The Argentine's biggest victim, however, has been Arsenal. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger described the forward as a 'Playstation' after he netted all four in a memorable 4-1 win at Camp Nou in the quarter-finals of the 2009-10 edition, which ultimately ended in disappointment with semi-final defeat at Inter, while Leo was on target twice in a 3-1 success over the Londoners in the second round last season.

Elsewhere, Lyon and Shakhtar had also been on the receiving end, having conceded one each to the 24-year-old, while Celtic, Bayern and Stuttgart have all shipped two apiece from Barcelona's finest forward.

On Tuesday, Valentine's Day, and up against German opposition once more in the shape of Bayer Leverkusen, Leo reached another romantic record. And with up to a decade of football still left ahead of him, the Argentine's Champions League love story could run and run.

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