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What a weekend for Messi, Luis Suárez and Joaquín...


Messi celebrated his sixth Ballon d'Or with a hat trick in front of an ecstatic home crowd – hardly front page news anymore because in LaLiga alone, he now has scored 35 hat tricks53 in total across all competitions. As for Joaquín, who fired three goals past Athletic in just 20 minutes, it was the first hat trick of his career. “I’ve never been a goal scorer”, he modestly explained afterwards. Against Messi’s 53 hat tricks, Joaquín’s feat might seem insignificant – after all, lots of players have scored three goals in a game. But he managed his aged 38 – that’s even older than Di Stéfano was when he netted the last hat trick of his career (the ones he scored during his time in Colombia weren’t registered so we can’t get an exact figure of the total). Joaquín has set a new record and doing what he did is no small feat.

Hat trick hero Joaquín
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Hat trick hero JoaquínQuality Sport ImagesGetty Images

'Musho' Joaquín: Happy days at Betis

I love Joaquín as a player and for the personality he is. He was at the AS gala the other day and wherever he went, everyone was scrambling to greet him and have a chat. He offers a great image of football and it’s wonderful that he’s still going strong; the same as ever even now, in great form, enjoying his football and leading a Betis side who, now without [ex-president Manuel Ruiz de] Lopera, the whole of the country views with compassion. And the club have decided to dust off the old, classic club slogan Viva el Betis Manquepierda ('Long live Betis, even when we lose') printed in large letters on a hoarding in the south stand, on display for the first time yesterday. And it could have turned out better thanks to Joaquín’s hat trick.

Luis Suárez sublime backheel goal
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Luis Suárez sublime backheel goalALBERT GEAREUTERS

Luis Suárez's trick shot

Apart from Messi, Joaquín and Luis Suárez were the other stars of this weekend in LaLiga. The Uruguayan scored with a jaw-dropping backheel finish. “A goal from years gone by”, remarked a colleague, Juan Cruz. However, I felt it was timeless goal. We’ve always seen backheeled goals, some of them very elegant, but this one – striking the ball at the base as though it was a snooker ball, sending it spinning with a life of its own and leaving the keeper flatfooted, is something I don’t think we’ve ever seen. And genial inventions like Suárez’s backheel are a real delight to see in LaLiga, and almost make up for the blunders which VAR continues to make – this time, awarding a penalty for a foul clearly outside of the area in Valencia – then justifying it by showing an image after contact was made...