Messi overtakes Xavi to yet another record

The Argentine hit the treble in a 4-1 over Real Betis, including a rasping free-kick and sumptuous lob which brought a standing ovation from the Betis crowd.

The Barca boss told Movistar Partidazo after the game: "Leo's match has been extraordinary". The Uruguay worldwide forward, who scored a stunning solo goal, was forced off late on with an ankle sprain.

"It's evidence of the player he is".

"It's significant that they cheer him, it's an acknowledgement".

"I'm really grateful for the way the fans responded".

"I don't remember being applauded by rival fans for a goal before", he told Movistar.

"It was a very good chance to increase our distance at the top, we knew about Atletico's result and we couldn't afford to not take it", he said.

"It depends on us and staying aware that nothing is decided yet", Messi said.

Lionel Messi's sublime hattrick, along with Luis Suarez' brilliant solo-goal gave Barcelona a sizeable advantage on the scoreline over Betis at the end of full-time.

The night belonged to Messi, though, and the 31-year-old completed yet another memorable hat-trick with a pinpoint lob late on.

Messi felt the new formation was one of the keys to Barca's comfortable win as the league leaders moved 10 points clear of Atletico Madrid, who lost at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Messi's first goal was the product of a foul by Andres Guardado on Arthur that gifted Argentina forward a free kick ideal for his preferred left foot _ just slightly outside the semi-circle atop the area.

  • Steve Townsend