BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — For all the astonishing feats in his young career, Lionel Messi had never scored five goals in a professional game. And no one had ever 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 is a joke. For me the best ever,” Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney wrote on Twitter.
Messi scored his first goal when Xavi Hernandez’s long pass sent him in alone, he took a touch and chipped goalkeeper Bernd Leno with his left foot from 12 yards. On the second he cut across from the right after a pass from Andres Iniesta and sent a left-footed shot in from 14 yards through a crowd of defenders.
He became the first player to score four goals twice in the Champions League — he accomplished the feat against Arsenal two years ago — when Leno batted a ball knocked toward the goal by a defender right to Messi, who poked the ball in with his left foot from an angle.
Messi’s fifth was on a curling left-footed shot from 19 yards.
He has 48 goals for Barcelona this season, including 12 in the Champions League. He increased his Champions League career total to 49, tying Alfredo Di Stefano for fourth on the European Cup/Champions League career list.
“I can’t remember the last time I scored five goals, so I’m very happy,” Messi said. “It’s nice to score five goals.”
Just 24 years old, he has 228 goals for Barcelona and is seven from tying Cesar Rodriguez for the club’s career scoring record. Messi has seven hat tricks this season.
“He’s the best. There is no other like him,” Guardiola said. “The numbers speak for themselves. One day he’ll score six. We’re very fortunate to have Messi, so we have to take advantage of him.”
Substitute Cristian Tello added a pair of goals for Barcelona, which extended its home unbeaten streak to 50 games. Leverkusen became the first German club since 1964 to lose an aggregate series by nine goals.
“What was important was to win,” Messi said. “That’s what we wanted to achieve, now we’re in the quarterfinals and we did it impressively.”
In the night’s other game, Cyprus’ APOEL Nicosia beat Lyon 4-3 on penalty kicks following a 1-0 win that left the aggregate and away goals both tied in the series. Gustavo Manduca scored in the ninth minute, and goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis saved kicks from
Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos in the shootout. APOEL is the first Cypriot club to advance to the quarterfinals.