The records just keep on tumbling during Lionel Messi’s incredible career but aside from being Barcelona and Argentina’s leading goal scorer, La Liga’s deadliest hitman and the owner of five Ballon d’Ors, the boy from Rosario is also the top scorer in El Clásico history.
Alfredo Di Stefano, Raul, Ferenc Puskas and of course modern rival Cristiano Ronaldo have all scored in the famous fixture but it is Messi at the top of the pile.
Barcelona and Real Madrid meet again on Saturday with the Catalan giants knowing that victory in the Santiago Bernabeu would all but end their bitter enemies’ title hopes.
If that is to happen, Lionel Messi seems certain to be involved given the Argentinian’s imperious form this season. It wouldn’t be the first time, so here are five of his best in El Clásico.
1 – 10/03/2007 Barcelona 3 Real Madrid 3
The talent of the then 19-year-old Lionel Messi was already no secret but Madrid were given a harsh reminder at the Camp Nou in 2007 as the Argentinian opened his El Clásico account in style. The youngster had already scored twice with two unerring left-footed finishes to cancel out two Ruud van Nistelrooy goals but completed a famous hat-trick in stoppage time to deny the visitors for a third time.
Ronaldinho fizzed the ball into Messi’s feet some distance from goal but an outstanding first touch, a burst of pace to skip round Michel Salgado and a firm finish past Iker Casillas earned Barcelona a point.
2 – 02/05/2009 Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 6
Pep Guardiola’s treble winning side in 2009 were a joy to watch and in May the title was all but sewn up when Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 6-2 in the Bernabeu.
Messi had already scored one after Xavi had robbed Lassana Diarra in central midfield but with Barcelona running rampant and leading 4-2 in the second half, the pair combined again. Messi slipped the ball into Xavi, who spun away from two defenders only to return the ball to the number ten for a cool near-post finish.
3 – 27/04/2011 Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 2
Another Champions League winning year and another decisive display from Lionel Messi when it counted as Barcelona met their old rivals in the semi-finals. The first leg in the Bernebeu was all about the Argentinian and witnessed one of the competition’s great goals.
The close range finish to break the deadlock after 76 minutes perhaps wouldn’t have been disastrous for Madrid ahead of the second leg but Messi’s second virtually killed the tie. An innocuous exchange of passes with Sergio Busquets close to half way in an instant changed into Messi driving at the Madrid defence and in the blink of an eye he was around three defenders and rolling the ball beyond Iker Casillas.
4 – 07/10/2012 Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 2
After scoring a beautiful free kick two months earlier at the Bernabeu as Barcelona lost on away goals in the Supercopa, Messi repeated the trick in their league encounter at the Camp Nou.
His close range volley had already cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener and on the hour mark, Messi produced the perfect strike. Some 30 yards from goal, Madrid’s hefty wall and Iker Casillas were helpless to stop a left footed strike that whistled over the wall and down into the corner. Madrid earned a draw that night but it was the Blaugrana that went on to claim the Liga title.
5 – 23/04/2017 Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 3
Madrid may have ended as La Liga champions last season but the April Clásico at the Bernabeu provided Lionel Messi with his 500th Barcelona goal and a vintage moment that will live long in the memory.
Luis Enrique’s side desperately needed a win to close the gap on Madrid at the top and went to toe-to-toe with them in one of the games of the season. An outstanding Messi opener had already brought Barcelona level and Ivan Rakitic looked as though his second half goal would secure the points. However, James Rodriguez’s 86th minute equaliser spoiled the party until deep into stoppage time.
Barca broke at speed, Jordi Alba’s cut back rolled to the edge of the box and Messi arrived right on cue to strike the winner. The match, the 500th goal, the shirt held aloft in front of the Madrid supporters. It was perfect.