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The Argentine's brilliant hat-trick saw the Catalans claim a hard-fought 5-3 win at home to Granada and propels him to the top of the club's all-time greatest goalscorers list

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By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor

It all started against Albacete in 2005. The fourth official had just lifted up his board to indicate three minutes of added time. Barcelona were a goal to the good - and looking for a clincher. Ronaldinho had moved into the centre and on the left, there was a young man named Messi.

Leo had only been on the pitch for three minutes and had already put the ball in the back of the net once, only to be see that strike ruled out because Ludovic Giuly was in an offside position. But the young Argentine was not te be denied twice. He advanced down the left, played a square ball inside to Ronaldinho, continued his run and latched onto an exquisite chip from the Brazilian which left him one-on-one with goalkeeper Raul Valbuena. Leo let the ball bounce, took his time and guided a lovely left-footed lob over Valbuena and into the net. The Camp Nou cheered; history was being made.

At 17 years, 10 months and seven days old, Messi became the youngest goalscorer in Barca history - a record later broken by former team-mate Bojan Krkic. But Leo's latest mark of 234 goals for the Catalan club is likely to last for generations. In fact, by the time he has finished tormenting goalkeepers, it may never be beaten. Ever.

The Argentine was not expected to break the record on Tuesday. The record books had Cesar Rodriguez on 235 strikes for the Blaugrana, but Barca suspected that number may be incorrect and conducted an investigation in conjunction with Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia. And as it turned out it was 232, not 235, although it hardly mattered, anyway. All that changed was the date of the record being broken.

BARCELONA ALL-TIME TOP SCORERS LIST
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina) 2005- 234
2. Cesar Rodriguez (Spain)
1942-55  232 
3. Ladislao Kubala (Hungary)
1951-61 194
4. Josep Samitier (Spain)
1919-32 178
5. Josep Escola (Spain)
1934-49 167
6. Paulino Alcantara (Philippines)
1912-27 137
7. Angel Arocha (Spain)
1926-33 134
8. Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon) 2004-09 130
9. Rivaldo (Brazil) 1997-02 130
10. Mariano Martin (Spain) 1940-48 124
   *Alcantara scored 369 goals in total for Barcelona, but over 200 of those strikes came in friendly matches

It didn't take Messi very long to draw level with Cesar on Tuesday. Having headed across the box for Xavi to open the scoring after four minutes, he needed just 13 more before drilling in a measured shot which went in off the post.

That was 232 and 233 came in the second half, but only after Barca had let Granada back into the game by conceding from a set piece and then giving away a penalty, which Guilherme Siqueira scored to make it 2-2.

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The unexpected scoreline proved something of a wake-up call for Barcelona and, in particular, for Messi. The Argentine latched onto a great pass by Dani Alves and notched his 233rd strike in almost a carbon copy of his first-ever Barca goal, as he lobbed Julio Cesar with an exquisite effort to make it 3-2. He then added another as he smashed home a fierce drive to make it 5-2 late on after substitute Cristiano Tello had scored two minutes earlier, and before Siqueira reduced the deficit by dispatching another penalty.

Even before his debut, the Argentine had been described as the next Diego Maradona. But unlike so many pretenders to the throne of El Diego, Leo is for real. Maradona consecrated his legendary status with his dazzling displays at the 1986 World Cup for Argentina in Mexico D.F, a city still feeling the effects of a devastating earthquake the previous year.

And on March 20, 2012, as the Earth shook again and tremors rocked Mexico City once more, Messi made his mark on a record which had stood for over half a century. It may last forever.

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