The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 18 , 2014
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Leo scores hat-trick, surpasses Alcantara

Barcelona: Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to become Barcelona’s all-time top scorer as they warmed up for next weekend’s El Clasico with a 7-0 victory over Osasuna that put them four points off the top of La Liga.

The Argentine now has 371 goals for Barca in all matches including friendlies, surpassing the record of Paulino Alcantara, who played for the club between 1912 and 1927 and notched up 369 goals. Messi struck the opener after 18 minutes in a morale-boosting victory for the Catalan side ahead of the crunch game at the Bernabeu.

Barca knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League last Wednesday but went into the Osasuna clash on the back of two defeats from their past three league games. Alexis Sanchez pounced to double the lead after 22 minutes and Andres Iniesta hit a fine left-foot drive from 20 yards with little over half an hour gone.

Chances continued to come and go before Messi bagged another with a shot into the roof of the net from close range just after the hour before substitute Cristian Tello netted with a powerful strike.

Messi was given time in the area to score his third late on, his 18th of the season, and he then set up Pedro to complete the rout in stoppage time. “As long as the people want me here I will stay here. My intention is to retire in the Barcelona shirt,” he said.

Looking ahead to the Clasico, he added: “Hopefully, we can play a good game. We know it will be difficult but we will do our best to fight for the league until the end.”

Coach Gerardo Martino was cautious looking ahead to the Real match. “It helps to play well before going to the Bernabeu but we mustn't get carried away,” he told a news conference. “It isn’t easy to score seven goals but we can't go from being one moment a disaster to the other fantastic.”

Brazilian Neymar was a surprise absentee from the starting lineup in a win that left Barca on 66 points from 28 matches, four behind Real and one behind Atletico Madrid who beat Espanyol 1-0 on Saturday. (Reuters)