Lionel Messi scored another brilliant free-kick on Sunday in Barcelona’s La Liga win over Athletic Club to bring up goal number 650 for the Catalan giants.
The captain struck in a 2-1 win for Ronald Koeman’s side that sees the team extend their unbeaten run in La Liga to 10 games and move into second place in the table in Spain.
Messi’s latest goal means the Barcelona star now has now scored 21 free-kicks over the last five seasons, more than double the amount any other player has managed in Europe’s top five leagues.
The Argentina international has also now scored two direct free-kicks from his last four attempts for Barcelona in all competitions, according to Opta.
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Koeman Praises Messi
Messi came in for praise from his manager after Sunday’s win. The Barcelona boss was also critical of a report in El Mundo ahead of the game that leaked details about Messi’s contract at the Camp Nou, as reported by Marca.
We’ve known, for quite some time, that he’s the best in the world. He’s done a lot for the club. He’s decisive during games. He hasn’t been more motivated today [because of the newspaper report]. You have to respect everything he’s done.
What’s happened has been for bad intentions, to cause harm. We have to be united and focused. Things that are published have to be put to the side, but it’s tough. He’s a great player, he gives us creativity in attack. Without Leo, you can’t aspire to much.
The Barcelona captain’s latest goal means he now has 12 so far this season in La Liga and is two behind former team-mate Luis Suarez in the race for the Pichichi award.
Barcelona Set for Copa del Rey Quarter-Finals
Barcelona and Messi now turn their attentions to Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final at La Liga rivals Granada. Diego Martinez’s men are seventh in the table and were held to a goalless draw at home to Celta Vigo on Sunday.
The Copa del Rey looks to be Barca’s best chance of silverware this season which means Koeman is likely to field a strong team at Los Carmenes and Messi could once again lead the team out.
Barca have faced lower league opposition so far in the competition, beating third-tier Cornella 2-0 after extra-time and seeing off Segunda Division team Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in the last round.
Messi was on target against Rayo and will have fond memories of his last trip to Granada at the start of January. The captain scored twice in a comprehensive 4-0 win for the Catalan giants. His second goal was another free-kick that he curled low under the wall and past goalkeeper Rui Silva.
The Argentine is in a rich vein of goalscoring form, with nine goals in his last 10 outings, and Barca will hope he can maintain that run in February with some crucial games to come.
Koeman’s men resume their Champions League campaign later this month with a last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain and also face tricky away trips to Real Betis and Sevilla in La Liga.