Lionel Messi was hailed as "the magical one" after he matched Xavi's appearances record for Barcelona and marked the achievement with a double strike against Huesca.

The Argentine great played his 767th game for Barca on Monday and will set an outright record if he faces Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Former Barcelona team-mate Arturo Vidal wrote on Instagram: "One more record brother @leomessi. You are the master of football. You are the best, the extraterrestrial, the only one, the magical one."

Vidal, who left Barcelona to join Inter last September, added: "Surely you will continue to beat many more records, you are unique, an extraterrestrial hug ..."

Xavi, currently coach of Qatari champions Al Sadd, paid his own compliment on Tuesday by writing to his former team-mate: "Congratulations Leo!! It's an honor that you match this record."

The 4-1 win over Huesca moved Barcelona to within four points of stuttering leaders Atletico Madrid, who have only won two of their previous five league games.

Both of Messi's goals came from outside the penalty area, and the club captain has made a habit lately of scoring from long range.

Stats Perform data shows that 36 per cent of his LaLiga goals last season (9 of 25) and 33 per cent this term (7 of 21) have come from outside the 18-yard box.

Those are the highest percentage rates he has achieved in his Barcelona career and appear to signal a change in his approach to the game as he approaches his mid-30s.

In the 2011-12 season, when Messi scored a career-high 50 LaLiga goals in 37 games, only three of those - or six per cent - came from outside the penalty area.

Six of his seven from long range this season have come in his last nine league games.

Messi turns 34 in June and reaches the end of his contract at the end of the season, with uncertainty over whether he will stay at Camp Nou.

Whether his goals are coming from inside or outside the penalty area, crucially they continue to flow from the club's record scorer, whom Barca would be loath to see depart.

Monday night's double means he has scored over 20 goals in a LaLiga campaign for a 13th consecutive season, an unprecedented feat.

Lionel Messi has matched Xavi's record for the most appearances for Barcelona in all competitions.

The club captain started Monday's LaLiga match with Huesca, taking him to 767 games for the club he first joined as a 12-year-old.

Messi already boasts the record for the most trophies won (34) and most goals scored (658) for Barca.

The 33-year-old and former midfielder Xavi are the only players in the club's history to have surpassed 700 games for the Catalans, with Andres Iniesta next on the all-time appearance list on 674.

To date, Messi has featured in 510 LaLiga matches, while playing 149 Champions League fixtures, 79 Copa del Rey games, 20 in the Supercopa de Espana, five in the Club World Cup and four in the UEFA Super Cup.

Speaking before the Huesca game, head coach Ronald Koeman described it as "an incredible number of games".

"That also shows what Xavi did for the club, and now Messi will equal the number games of Xavi," he said.

"It will be a great day and then the next that will be one more than Xavi achieved with Barcelona. It is incredible because that shows how important he is and was for Barcelona.

"The number of games, the number of goals, the number of hat-tricks, the number of titles.

"Let's hope that we will continue with Leo, winning titles, what he showed and what he did for this club."

Messi tops LaLiga's goalscoring charts this season with 19 as Barca look to close within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid.

The Argentina star has been involved in five goals in two games against Huesca in LaLiga (two goals and three assists), including two goals and two assists in his only league appearance against them at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have gone 16 games without losing in LaLiga (W13 D3) – the best current unbeaten streak of any team in Eurppe's five major leagues.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman lauded "incredible" Lionel Messi as the superstar captain prepares to equal Xavi's historic appearance record.

Messi is one game away from matching Xavi as the players with the most games in Barcelona's history – 767 – ahead of Monday's LaLiga clash against Huesca.

Barca's Messi, who already holds the record for most trophies (34) and goals (658) in club history at Camp Nou, equalled Barca's all-time LaLiga appearances mark set by Xavi last month.

To date, Messi has featured in 509 LaLiga matches, while playing 149 Champions League fixtures, 79 Copa del Rey games, 20 in the Supercopa de Espana, five in the Club World Cup and four in the UEFA Super Cup.

"Well it is an incredible number of games," Koeman told reporters. "That also shows what Xavi did for the club, and now Messi will equal the number games of Xavi.

"It will be a great day and then the next that will be one more than Xavi achieved with Barcelona. It is incredible because that shows how important he is and was for Barcelona.

"The number of games, the number of goals, the number of hat-tricks, the number of titles.

"Let's hope that we will continue with Leo, winning titles, what he showed and what he did for this club."

The 33-year-old Messi tops LaLiga's goalscoring charts this season with 19 as Barca look to close within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi has been involved in five goals in two games against Huesca in LaLiga (two goals and three assists), including two goals and two assists in his only league appearance against them at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have gone 16 games without losing in LaLiga (W13 D3) – the best current unbeaten streak of any team in the five major leagues in Europe.

Xavi was celebrating on Sunday as his Al Sadd team clinched the Qatar Stars League championship, the first league title of a coaching career that many expect will lead him back to Barcelona.

The former Spain and Barca midfielder saw his players secure the trophy with a 3-0 win over Umm Salal that puts them 13 points clear with four rounds of games remaining.

Xavi previously helped Al Sadd land the 2018-19 title in what proved to be the final year of his playing career.

The 41-year-old stepped up to be head coach of the team following that campaign and has led Al Sadd to a string of trophy successes in cup competitions, but he was thrilled to finally land a league title.

"We created a new history for Al Sadd," Xavi said. "I am happy to win the league title for the first time as a coach with Al Sadd, after winning it as a player."

Goals from Baghdad Bounedjah, Yousuf Abdurisag and Rodrigo Tabata secured Sunday's win.

Xavi told the club's website: "I am happy to be in this group of players, officials, technical and medical staff. Our goal is to win all the tournaments we participate in.

"Special thanks to the fans of Al Sadd who supported the team with full force throughout the season and also in the championship match against Umm Salal, and we promise them to continue working to make them happy and win more championships for the club."

Those supporters will hope Xavi's message signals a long-term commitment to the Al Sadd cause, given he has frequently been linked with a return to LaLiga giants Barcelona, the club where he spent his entire career until moving to Qatar at the age of 35.

Such suggestions were revived during the campaign to decide Barcelona's new president; however, the man heading for victory in the vote on Sunday, Joan Laporta, indicated recently that Xavi may not yet have sufficient experience to return to Camp Nou as head coach.

Al Sadd's league title was the 15th in their history and a 75th trophy in total, the club said.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique cast his vote in the Barcelona presidential election on Sunday and kept his fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

The former Barcelona player, who coached the team to treble glory in the 2014-15 season, was one of thousands who turned out to Camp Nou to vote in person.

Barcelona said 20,663 club members had already voted by post for their choice of the president to lead the club forward.

Luis Enrique was among a host of big names who arrived at the club's stadium to have their say in the election, with current players including Lionel Messi also exercising their right.

"It is an opportunity to choose the president of Barca and with joy. I hope that the one who comes out on top, the one picked by all the members, will be the best for the club," Luis Enrique said, quoted by Mundo Deportivo.

He was pictured wearing a face mask as he submitted his voting card, with the elections taking place while COVID-19 remains a major global crisis.

"Everything is strange in these times and what we have clearly demonstrated is the ability that we have to adapt," Luis Enrique said. "We will prepare and look for the positive side of things."

Xavi, a former Barcelona midfield talisman, urged members to come out and vote, to take their chance to influence the club's future direction.

Former president Joan Laporta is favourite to return for a second term in charge, with Victor Font and Toni Freixa the other men in the running.

Xavi, who Font has pledged to bring back to the club as head coach if he wins, had a major distraction on Sunday as his Al Sadd team attempted to wrap up the Qatar Stars League against Umm Salal.

But the 41-year-old wrote on Instagram: "From Doha I encourage all members to vote in the elections of the best club in the world. Long live Barca!"

Barcelona signing Sergio Aguero could help convince Lionel Messi to stay, according to Juli Lopez, who is involved with Victor Font's candidacy to be the club's next president.  

Messi's future beyond this season remains uncertain as he comes towards the end of his contract. The 33-year-old made clear his desire to leave prior to the 2020-21 campaign but ended up remaining at Camp Nou to see out his deal.  

Paris Saint-Germain have been strongly linked with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, while Manchester City were reportedly interested in reuniting the Argentinian with his former Barca boss Pep Guardiola in England.  

However, Lopez – who will oversee the sporting department if Font wins the election – feels a familiar face arriving from City could help make all the difference for Messi.  

Asked in an interview with Marca if bringing in Aguero would help Messi decide to remain in Spain, he replied: "Absolutely.  

"Barcelona need another goalscorer. Aguero wouldn't be signed just so Messi stays. We're talking about a top striker who wants to be playing top-level European football up to the World Cup in Qatar.  

"He would bring a huge lift to the club and would play a huge role at Barcelona."

Like Messi, Aguero's deal with his current team is into the final few months.  

The striker is City's all-time leading scorer but has barely featured this season due to injuries and illness, making just nine appearances in all competitions. After hamstring and knee issues earlier in the campaign, he tested positive for coronavirus in January.  

Lopez also discussed the potential return of a Barcelona legend in Xavi – who is the head coach at Al Sadd in Qatar – as another move that may convince Messi, as the talismanic forward would be able to see there is a clear plan mapped out for the future.

"The first thing is to make sure he can see that this team in the medium and long term will play in the way that he likes," Lopez said.  

"Someone who he trusts will need to tell him this. Who better to explain the project than his former team-mate Xavi?  

"A good project and someone he can trust are the two key ingredients to keep him at the club."

Lionel Messi will make his 500th LaLiga appearance for Barcelona in Sunday's meeting with Huesca after returning to Ronald Koeman's starting line-up.

Messi missed Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Eibar after he was given an extended break over Christmas to nurse an ankle problem.

However, Koeman confirmed on Saturday that the 33-year-old had trained on December 30 and 31, and Messi has subsequently returned to Barca's starting XI for a landmark outing at Estadio El Alcoraz.

Messi's 500 league appearances for Barca is five short of the club-record held by Xavi, who also holds the record for all-time appearances for the Blaugrana with 767. 

Xavi's total is 17 more than Messi's current tally of 750, including Sunday's game.

The record for the most matches ever played in LaLiga is held by former goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, with 662 games under his belt for Athletic Club, Barca and Valencia.

Barca make the trip to Huesca unbeaten in five league matches, but they have drawn two of their last three and enter the game 13 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi was directly involved in four goals in his only previous LaLiga game against Huesca, scoring twice and providing two assists in September 2018.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.