BARCELONA, Spain – For all the astonishing feats in his young career, Lionel Messi had never scored five goals in a professional game.
And no one had scored five times in a Champions League match.
Well, check both of those off.
With another mesmerizing performance, Messi helped defending champion Barcelona crush Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 Wednesday night to advance to the quarterfinals with a 10-2 aggregate win.
“Without Messi, Barca is the best team,” Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt said. “And with him, they are in another galaxy.”
The three-time FIFA player of the year scored in the 25th, 42nd and 49th minutes for a 3-0 lead and his 17th career hat trick for Barcelona, then added goals in the 58th and 84th minutes for the first five-goal game of his professional career.
“We’ll never see a player like him again,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. “He is one of a kind.”
The last time a player scored five goals in European soccer’s top club competition had been when Ajax’s Soren Lerby did it against Omonia in the old Champion Clubs’ Cup in 1979-80.
Messi also became the first player to score at least four goals twice in the Champions League – he had four against Arsenal two years ago.
“I can’t remember the last time I scored five goals, so I’m very happy,” Messi said.