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BARCELONA

Messi matches the great Telmo Zarra's Liga top-scorer mark

Messi matches the great Telmo Zarra's Liga top-scorer mark

JORGE GUERRERO

AFP

The Argentinean will add another feather to his cap at the end of the 2018-19 Liga season and remains on course for a sixth European Golden Shoe.

Debate will always rage as to who is the greatest player in one respect or another: of all-time, in a certain team, of a certain nationality or in a particular league. Leo Messi’s is a name that will feature in every one of those conversations until the end of civilization as we know it but the Argentinean will take another firm step towards being regarded as the best player ever to grace LaLiga when he finishes this season with his sixth Pichichi award as the division’s top scorer.

Until now, it was one of the few honours that still belonged to Telmo Zarra and Telmo Zarra alone. The legendary Athletic Bilbao forward, who played for the Lions between 1940 and 1955, was the Messi of his day. In 277 Liga games he bagged 251 goals and 335 in 354 matches in all competitions. When adding his three individual seasons at Erandio, Indautxu and Barakaldo, Zarra posted figures of 363 goals in 411 club appearances overall.

Zarra hit his peak between 1946 and 1951, when he posted figures similar to Messi’s at Barcelona. In the league and cup, he hit 36, 31, 37 and 49 goals at a time when the top flight consisted of 16 teams.

Messi’s sixth Pichichi has been guaranteed for some time, with both Luis Suárez and Karim Benzema out injured in recent weeks. Even had they not been, the Barça and Madrid number nines would have struggled to catch the Argentinean, who goes into Sunday’s game at Eibar with 34 league strikes to their 21 apiece.

Messi has now won the Liga scoring trophy on six occasions, the same number as Zarra, who outscored everyone else in 1944-45, 1945-46, 1946-47, 1949-50, 1950-51 and 1952-53.

Messi and Ronaldo continuing Zarra's legacy

While Zarra’s achievement remains astonishing for his consistency and prolific scoring, it is fair to say that the great Athletic striker enjoyed peerless dominance, his 38 goals in a single season was a stand-alone Spanish record from 1951 until 2010-11, when Hugo Sánchez matched it for Real Madrid. Still, the Mexican had eight more games than Zarra to reach the mark.

That record of course has now been broken several times, six of them by Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. For the Argentinean to have been top scorer six times with the Portuguese for competition in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2017 and 2018 makes the achievement even more remarkable and restricted Ronaldo to three Pichichi awards in 2011, 2014 and 2015. Only Zarra, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Quini and Hugo Sánchez have five to their name.

Messi may want to add a couple against Eibar as he aims to land the European Golden Shoe for a sixth time. The Barça forward already stands alone on five continental awards to Ronaldo’s four but he will have to hold off competition from Kylian Mbappé. The PSG striker has 32 league goals to his name this season and has one more game to try and catch Messi, something his teammates may help him to try and do with the Ligue 1 title wrapped up. Mbappé scored twice against Dijon last weekend with PSG travelling to Reims on Friday where a hat-trick, if Messi draws a blank in Ipurua, will see the France international land the Golden Shoe.