LALIGA SANTANDER

Messi: Barcelona "luckily" still have their record-breaker

Ronald Koeman heaped praise on Lionel Messi following his memorable outing for Barcelona against Huesca.

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Koeman: Luckily record-breaking Messi is still with Barcelona

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said the LaLiga giants are lucky Lionel Messi is still at Camp Nou after the superstar captain equalled Xavi's record for the most appearances in club history.

"Messi has shown he's the best"

Messi capped his historic 767th appearance – across all competitions to move level alongside Xavi – with two goals and an assist in Barca's 4-1 rout of bottom side Huesca on Monday.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi made history with his stunning opening goal – becoming the first player in LaLiga history to score 20 times in 13 consecutive league campaigns.

Messi has scored 21 goals in LaLiga this season, with 14 of those netted since January 1, and Koeman hailed the 33-year-old, who has been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

"I think Messi has shown that he's the best," Koeman said post-match in Barcelona.

"The first goal was fantastic. He deserves to be important for this team.

"No more can be said [about him]. The level he's been at for so many years, for so many games. He's the most important man in the club's history.

"Luckily he's still with us."

No other player has scored more goals from outside the box than Messi in the top five European leagues (seven) this season.

"It's important [to score from outside the area]," Koeman added. "For teams that defend with so many players in the box, it's important to finish off the moves.

"You have to shoot. In general, we were good tonight. We've been trying these shots in training."

Messi has been involved in eight goals in three games against Huesca in LaLiga (four goals and four assists), including four goals and three assists in his two league appearances against them at the Camp Nou.

Barca, meanwhile, closed within four points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid as they extended their unbeaten streak in the league.

Koeman's Barça have gone 17 games without losing in LaLiga (W14 D3) – the best current undefeated run of any team in the five major leagues in Europe.

"I've always said there was a lot to play for," Koeman said. "It's always hard for any team to hold out.

"After all the points we dropped, I think we've reacted well.

"The team are in good shape and we're fighting. We can't lose any more points because we've already dropped quite a few."