LIONEL Messi scored a hat-trick to help a second-string Argentina record an easy 4-0 away win over Guatemala in a friendly and overtake Diego Maradona’s international goals tally.
Messi, who came on as a substitute in recent World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Ecuador, was given a place in the starting line-up and gave Argentina a 15th minute lead with a left-foot shot from outside the penalty area.
Messi provided the cross for Augusto Fernandez to head in the second in the 35th minute before converting a penalty himself four minutes later.
He completed his third hat-trick for his country four minutes after half-time when Ezequiel Lavezzi produced a low cross from the right and the Barcelona star casually side-footed the ball in from 12 metres after being left completely unmarked.
Apart from Messi, coach Alejandro Sabella fielded a largely experimental line-up for Friday evening’s match in Guatemala City’s Mateo Flores stadium.
Messi, whose previous hat-tricks were against Switzerland and Brazil last year, was substituted in the 67th minute after taking his tally of international goals to 35, which Argentine media said was one more than Diego Maradona’s total and put him level with Hernan Crespo as the team’s second highest scorer.
Gabriel Batitusta holds the record with 56 goals.
“That was the least important thing,” Messi said when he was asked about overtaking Maradona’s tally. “We wanted to play well in this friendly. The team’s attitude was right.”
Argentina’s next match is a friendly away to Italy on 14 August.
n Spanish forward Fernando Torres believes that under newly returned Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho he will be able to rediscover the form that made him one of the world’s most feared strikers.
Torres has been linked with a return to La Liga, but he insisted he wants to impress the new man at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho has said Torres can still play an important role at the London club despite a disappointing run since he left Liverpool two-and-a-half years ago for a British record fee of £50 million.
Torres, who is with the Spain squad at the Confederations Cup in Brazil, said he wanted to complete his Chelsea contract, which expires at the end of June 2016.
“I want to see out the contract I signed, carry on winning titles and I would like to be the best in my position again,” the 29-year-old said.
“There is no better place and better conditions than with Mourinho at Chelsea,” he added. “His words are a motivation for me.”
Meanwhile, Spanish and Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata insists he has not been told he is surplus to requirements under Mourinho and is ignoring stories to the contrary. The Spanish playmaker was Chelsea’s player of the year as they lifted the Europa League and finished third in the Barclays Premier League.
Surprisingly, some reports have suggested Mourinho has told clubs on the continent that Mata is available for transfer.
The 25-year-old has heard nothing of the sort, though, and will wait until he meets the Portuguese before judging the stories.
“Nobody at Chelsea has told me that Mourinho wants me out,” he said. “When I finished the season I was told that they were very happy with my performances and with the two years I’ve spent with the club.
“I have three years left on my contract. I’m very happy with Chelsea.”