BARCELONA

Messi targets Koeman's 25 free-kick goal record

The little Argentine has already scored 21 goals direct from a free-kick, overtaking Ronaldinho, and now has two Barcelona dead-ball legends in his sights.

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When Messi steps up to take a free-kick expectancy is high. They don't all go in but most are very close and those that have gone in have seen him exceed the equivalent goal tally of Ronaldinho during his time at Barcelona. His five seasons saw him hit 20 to the delight of the fans. In his similarly exquisite style, Leo Messi is now looking to the legendary Ronald Koeman, who signed in 1988 from PSV Eindhoven for 1,000 million pesetas, the equivalent of six million euros today.

Messi plays with a smile on his face and challenges seem to motivate him. In last Sunday's 2-1 victory against Sevilla it wasn't plain sailing and Vitolo's goal for the visitors made it all the harder. But the Argentine genius paved the way for a title pushing three points.

This is how it's done

Messi's goal was his sixth direct from a free-kick this season. Three in LaLiga, one in the Cup and two in the European Super Cup. These can be added to another 15 since his first in the 2008-09 season, when he scored against Atlético, and there is a feeling that he's getting better and better, especially considering he's missed some of this season due to injury.

Ronald Koeman, now coach of Southampton in the Premier League, was considered at the time as one of the best free-kick takers in the club's history, with an acknowledgement to Hungarian Laszy Kubala, of course. Koeman finished his time at the club with 25 goals from set pieces - 23 of them direct and two indirect - one of which earned the club their first European Cup at Wembley against Sampdoria. The club now has five.

Messi wants more. The goal on Sunday was a work of art. A lash with his left foot that flew like a curving bullet into the Sevilla goal. He's looking for more by the time May arrives and who would bet against him topping Koeman by then?