Lionel Messi gunning for La Liga goals record

Lionel Messi: 21 trophies at Barca. Picture: Getty
Lionel Messi: 21 trophies at Barca. Picture: Getty
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Lionel Messi will have another chance to match or surpass Telmo Zarra’s six-decade-old 
La Liga scoring record of 251 goals when Barcelona host promoted Eibar tomorrow.

The Argentina captain and four-times World Player of the Year has netted 249 times in the Spanish top flight since he played his first match exactly ten years ago aged 17.

Messi’s goals – he has 361 overall in 434 official games – have helped the Catalan club win 
21 trophies during the past 
decade, including six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns.

Widely considered one of the best players in football history, the 27-year-old has been showered with praise in the run-up to the anniversary, although his father Jorge insists his son is unaffected either by acclaim or criticism.

“There are times when there is too much praise and other moments when the criticism is excessive,” Jorge Messi said in an interview with Spanish radio yesterday.

“You have to stop somewhere in the middle and simply look forward,” he added. “He [Lionel] reads and listens to everyone and I don’t know how he does it but he doesn’t attach much importance to either the good or the bad. People don’t know him. He is a very normal lad, like any other. He spends time with his family, he has fun, he tries to enjoy life. He isn’t any different.”

Messi’s father also insisted that his son had nothing to do with his own tax affairs and should not be included in an investigation into an alleged fraud.

Messi and his father, who have denied wrongdoing, have been accused of defrauding the Spanish state of more than €4million by filing incomplete returns for the years 2007 to 2009.

Income from Messi’s image rights was allegedly hidden, using a web of shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and Britain.

“In actual fact, I want to be quite cautious over this [topic],” Jorge Messi said.

“I have always said it, he 
[Lionel] had absolutely nothing to do with it, so there is no need to talk about it. My lawyers are dealing with this issue so it’s something with me and has nothing to do with him.”

Lionel Messi has been resident in Barcelona since 2000 and gained Spanish citizenship in 2005. He is one of the world’s highest-paid athletes and earns just over $40m (£25m) a season in wages and bonuses, according to Forbes magazine.

He also pulls in some $23m (£14.4m) in endorsements from partners including Adidas, Samsung, PepsiCo and Turkish Airlines, and is fourth on Forbes’s latest list of top-earning athletes.

If Messi fails to equal or overtake Zarra’s mark tomorrow, his next chance will be in the La Liga “El Clasico” at Real Madrid a week later.

That match falls the day after Luis Suarez’s ban for biting an opponent at the World Cup expires and the Uruguay forward could make his official Barca debut at the Bernabeu.

Barca are looking to bounce back this season after missing out on major silverware last season for the first time in six years.