The Argentine struck a superb hat-trick as Barcelona edged out Deportivo La Coruna in an epic encounter, then rushed off to be at his partner's bedside for the arrival of ThiagoCOMMENT
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Lionel Messi's legend was born a long, long time ago. And on Saturday night, after yet another stunning show on the football field, his new son was set to be born, too. It was a night he will never forget.
Earlier in the day, Gareth Bale had missed Tottenham's Premier League clash at home to Chelsea as his partner went into labour. But Messi was in the line-up as Barca kicked off at Riazor, starring in a sensational nine-goal thriller in Galicia before rushing off to accompany Antonella and meet his new son. After nine goals, the perfect 10.
Barca had seen title rivals Real Madrid make hard work of Celta Vigo earlier on Saturday. Jose Mourinho's men beat the Galicians 2-0 in a profligate performance, emerging as winners thanks to Gonzalo Higuain's fantastic first - a mishit cross which arched its way into the top corner after 11 minutes - and Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half penalty following a clumsy challenge by Gustavo Cabral on Mesut Ozil which the German duly exaggerated. It was a tired team and a subdued showing, with several key players missing in defence, but the win was what mattered.
Barcelona's players had also been busy on international week, while the Catalans have endured an even more severe situation in defence this term than their eternal enemies. But as their game in Galicia got underway, Tito Vilanova's team appeared neither tired nor troubled by absences at the back.
A crazy night for Messi & Barca
|1||One red card (for Mascherano), one penalty (for Depor), one own goal (Alba) but only one corner for Barca|
|3||Goals for Messi and assists for Cesc. It was the Argentine's 21st hat-trick for Barcelona and 15th in La Liga|
|4||Barcelona only once conceded four in official matches under Guardiola - a 4-3 loss at Atletico Madrid in March 2009|
|7||Seven wins out of eight for Barca in La Liga so far sees Vilanova equal Louis van Gaal's record for a debut coach|
|8||Only eight times in the history of La Liga has a match ended with a 4-5 scoreline. Barca also stay eight points ahead of Madrid|
|15||Messi now has 15 goals for Barca this term, drawing level with Ronaldo. Leo leads 11-9 in La Liga|
Barca's back-line is aided by the Catalans' superb forwards as defence begins in attack for the Blaugrana. And after a defender, Jordi Alba, had given them the lead after all of two minutes, Cristian Tello doubled the advantage. Cesc Fabregas, playing his greatest game in a Barcelona shirt, set up the first, dragged defenders away for the second, and would go on to create two more for Messi on a night of real personal satisfaction. He was replaced by Xavi with half an hour left and had to watch nervously as Barcelona clung on with 10 men.
But even Fabregas admitted afterwards that it had been all about Messi. In truth, it rarely isn't. Even on a night which saw Cesc's confirmation in Catalan colours, three goals inside 17 minutes from Barca, an outrageous own goal from Alba, yet another Victor Valdes howler, a polemic penalty (awarded for a dubious foul by Javier Mascherano on Riki outside the box), an extremely harsh red card for the former Liverpool midfielder and Deportivo's keeper Daniel Aranzubia in the opposition area trying to make it 5-5, the headlines were all for Leo.
Messi hit a hat-trick; three stunning finishes including a wonderful solo effort late in the game for his 15th Liga treble (a Barca record), as well as crashing a fierce free kick against the upright and claiming an assist along the way. And then sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta revealed after the match that the player would be travelling to Antonella's bedside to meet his new-born son, Thiago. Even by his own spectacular standards, it was quite a night.
This latest triple, on top of two impressive performances for Argentina in the international break versus Uruguay and Chile as Ronaldo failed to shine against Russia and Northern Ireland, surely sees Messi move ahead of the Portuguese in the race for the Ballon d'Or.
The Argentine admits, however, that he is more interested in the success of the team. And that team will now have a new member. On the pitch and now off it, Messi is the main man. Quite simply, he's the daddy.Follow Ben Hayward on