Lionel Messi’s strike rate “is from another galaxy” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said on Friday as the Argentine maestro bids to score his 500th career goal in this weekend’s ‘Clasico’.
Messi’s penalty against Bolivia in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier took him to 499 goals for club and country and there could be few more fitting scenarios for Barca’s talisman to make it 500 than Saturday’s clash with Real Madrid at the Nou Camp.
“The figure (499) is from another galaxy. If you add the goals of all our other players, including the ones I have scored, you don’t even get close to it, but I’ve seen Messi’s face and he and his team mates are desperate to win the game and give joy to our supporters,” Luis Enrique told reporters.
Five-times World Player of the Year Messi has netted 449 goals for Barcelona and has now 50 for Argentina, six behind his country’s record scorer Gabriel Batistuta. The 28-year-old is also the all-time top scorer in La Liga.
With Barca 10 points clear of third-placed Real Madrid and nine ahead of Atletico Madrid with eight games remaining, ‘El Clasico’ is unlikely to affect the title race.
However, asked if that made it any less important for his team, who could become the first Spanish side to win successive trebles, Luis Enrique laughed off the suggestion.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “We are playing to win everything, we are league leaders and playing to take another big step towards the title, and we’re playing against one of the best teams in the world with one of the best squads in the word. It’s a very difficult game for us and we know that.”
It will also be the first Barca game since the death of club great Johan Cruyff, who had a big impact as a player but more success as a coach, winning four league titles, the King’s Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and their first European Cup, in 1992.
A minute’s silence will be held before the game in memory of the visionary Dutchman and Barcelona’s players will bear the message ‘Thanks Johan’ on their shirts, although Luis Enrique said his players did not need any extra motivation.
“Barca have a competitive spirit which is bomb proof and we know we’ll have to be motivated or else we’ll lose, but that should be easy against Real Madrid, our eternal rivals,” he added. “What Cruyff would want the most is that we won the game deservedly by playing spectacular football.”