Lionel Messi becoming the Champions League's all-time leading goal scorer has seen the Barcelona star claim a record which has always been seen as Madrid's own, it has been admitted in the Spanish capital, while his teammate Xavi Hernandez drew comparisons with the legendary striker whose mark he surpassed.
Messi's hat trick in Tuesday's 4-0 Group F win at APOEL took the Argentina captain to 74 goals in 92 games in the competition, and out on his own past former record-holder and Madrid legend Raul, who himself had taken over the mantle from another Bernabeu hero in Alfredo Di Stefano.
In an editorial entitled "Messi makes off with a madridista record," AS chief columnist Alfredo Relano pointed out that since almost the beginning of European Cup football a Madrid player had always been the competition's leading scorer.
"From the second season of the European Cup -- in the first year the top scorer was Yugoslavia's [Milos] Milutinovic -- the record has always been Madrid's," Relano wrote for the Madrid-based newspaper. "The first was Di Stefano, who on his retirement left it at 49. Raul brought it to 71. Messi has stepped into a garden that the madridista always had as their own."
Madrid's current superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had hoped to beat his former teammate Raul's record, with the Portugal captain currently on 70 goals in the competition, and likely to see displacing Messi at the top of the list as an attractive challenge. Relano wrote that Madrid fans would like see to this to happen as soon as possible -- preferably in Wednesday's group game at Basel.
"Now the view turns inevitably towards Cristiano," Relano wrote. "The Madrid-Barca battle has become a Cristiano-Messi battle. Cristiano has been scoring at a better rate in these last months, he won the last Ballon d'Or, after four consecutive years of the Barcelona player. The madridista fan turns today to Cristiano, hoping for an improbable exploit: four goals."
- FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 25, 2014
"He is always there," Xavi said. "He scores all types of goals. It is terrific to have the best player in the world, and of all history. Messi has something of Raul with this ambition. Raul was an example. Leo is the same. He is never satisfied. They are competitive beasts. The numbers are there. They are examples for everyone."
Xavi said Messi's latest achievement, coming just four days after another hat trick had seen him also become the leading scorer in La Liga history, showed the media storm which followed the 27-year-old's comments last week about his future had been mistaken.
"Messi has always looked happy to me," he said. "We are used to him speaking rarely, and when he does it causes a debate. He said something very normal. Leo is happy and content, is in his element [at Barca]. You just have to look at the games he is playing, and how he gets stuck in to help in defence."
The veteran playmaker, 34, is also involved in his own personal duel with a Madrid player at the moment, with his appearance against APOEL being his 145th in the Champions League, a tally which Blancos captain Iker Casillas will equal should he start as expected against Basel on Wednesday.
Xavi said that Casillas, 33, would surely end up playing more games as goalkeepers tended to play longer, but the really interesting battle was between the two attacking superstars.
"The keeper has an advantage," he joked. "It is a good duel. But the other, between Cristiano and Messi, is already stratospheric. What numbers they have! It is a great spectacle for football."