BARCELONA: After scoring the only goal against Levante which clinched Barcelona’s 26th La Liga title on Saturday, Lionel Messi wrote another page in the history books by becoming the club’s first player to win 10 league titles.
Messi’s first Barca title came in 2005 when he was 17 years old and he was also a fringe player when he collected his second La Liga medal a year later.
But he has been the talisman behind their last eight triumphs, which Barca’s players celebrated by wearing T-shirts with the slogan ‘Eight out of 11, the extraordinary seems normal’.
Before Messi came of age and inspired a side coached by Pep Guardiola to the 2009 crown, Real Madrid had 31 titles while Barca had 18.
Thanks to Messi, who scored his 597th La Liga goal to secure the title against Levante, Barca have swelled their league trophy count to 26, closing to within seven of Real Madrid’s record 33.
“Messi is the centre of all our successes,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.
“It’s obvious that while he has been at Barca the club have won a glut of trophies and league titles. If I had to give a name above anyone else it has to be his. He marks our style and his competitive drive pushes everyone else forward.”
Messi, who became club captain at the start of this season, overtook predecessor Andres Iniesta’s nine league crowns with the club and joined a select group of players to have lifted 10 titles with one club in Europe’s top five leagues.
Former Real Madrid winger Paco Gento holds a Spanish record of 12 league titles and his old team mate Pirri lifted the La Liga trophy 10 times.
Manchester United great Ryan Giggs holds the most league titles in Europe’s top five leagues with 13 Premier League triumphs, while his former team mate Paul Scholes collected 11.
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon won 11 Serie A titles with Juventus although two of those triumphs were later stripped from the Turin club due to the Calciopoli corruption scandal.
“Messi is the best in the world,” Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said.
“Today he came on late but when he comes on things always happen. He is the leader and he is magic.”