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Make it seven! Ballon d'Or winner Messi hits treble as 'MSG' ignite

No sooner had Lionel Messi finished presenting his sixth Ballon d’Or to the adoring Camp Nou than he started paving the road to his seventh.

Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona romped to a 5-2 win over Mallorca on Saturday to move top of La Liga on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid, who temporarily usurped them with a win over Espanyol earlier on.

Fans roared as Messi, accompanied by his three children, held aloft the golden ball he won in Monday’s gala in Paris, a token of his quality and uniqueness.

Messi had been level with Cristiano Ronaldo on five, but the sixth puts him on a plane of his own. The best player in the world, now and ever.

Of course, those who regularly see him in the flesh already knew that, with the thousands of Barcelona fans present on a chilly evening in Catalonia knowing they were in for a treat.

And it wasn’t only Messi determined to put on a show, with the “MSG” attack - the No. 10, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann - enjoying their best performance together so far.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Griezmann set out Barcelona’s stall early on, with the German goalkeeper’s perfect long ball pass sending the Frenchman through on goal.

Griezmann hared into the box and dinked the ball over Manolo Reina to break the deadlock after seven minutes.

It looked like Barcelona were going to get a lot of joy against the visitors and, with Messi in the mood - he rarely isn’t - he proved unstoppable.

The Argentine took his first goal brilliantly, curling into the top corner from distance, and the second was nearly as good, another effort from outside the area which left Reina with no chance.

Messi’s brace took him to seven goals from outside the box this season, with only Bordeaux, Manchester City and RB Leipzig managing more as entire teams - Barcelona have 10.

In between Messi’s two goals he appeared to be riled by something Mallorca coach Vicente Moreno said. It’s never a good idea to upset Barcelona’s captain.

Ante Budimir, who struck a brace for Mallorca, pulled a goal back but Barcelona were flowing forward with so much vim that more goals seemed inevitable.

Luis Suarez converted the fourth with a remarkable backheel finish, after excellent build-up play by Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman, behind Messi and Ter Stegen, has arguably been his team’s best player this season, but rarely gets the credit as Barcelona’s leader rightfully draws so much of the attention.

It was Messi who made the difference last week against Atletico Madrid, settling a nervy, tight game, at his most decisive, while this match was the forward at his most fluid.

With countless flicks, interchanges, passes and lay-offs, Messi dazzled as Barcelona strolled through the second half.

Only some less than efficient finishing from Suarez and Griezmann stopped the Catalans from adding to their lead, as the chances kept flowing like cava at Christmas in these parts.

Eventually Messi completed what had long seemed inevitable - his hat-trick - taking him to 12 La Liga goals, the division’s top scorer.

Having missed the start of the season injured, he had no goals after seven matches. By the 15th, Messi leads the way, one goal ahead of Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.

It was also his 35th La Liga hat-trick, a record, moving one ahead of Ronaldo’s 34, just as in Monday’s glitzy Ballon d’Or ceremony.

All goals which, in 2020, may well prove stepping stones on the way to Barcelona’s glory - and more of Messi’s own.

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