Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi set an outright record for the number of assists in a single La Liga season as he set up teammate Ansu Fati for the opener in the Catalans’ encounter at Alaves.
Barcelona suffered the agony of seeing their two-year reign as Spanish champions come to an end on Thursday when they slumped to a home defeat against Osasuna and Real Madrid beat Villarreal, but Quique Setien’s team were looking to end the league season on a high as they traveled to struggling Alaves.
The visitors got off to a quick start, rattling the woodwork three times – including from a curling left-footed effort from the edge of the box from Messi – before they made the breakthrough in the 24th minute through teenage sensation Fati.
Messi was the orchestrator, dinking a cross into the box from the right – via a slight deflection – which Fati swept home for the 17-year-old’s seventh league goal of the season.
It was a milestone for Messi, who recorded a 21st assist of the current La Liga campaign – moving him one ahead of former teammate Xavi as the outright record-holder for a single season.
It wasn’t long before Messi himself got on the scoresheet, collecting a Riqui Puig pass and firing low into the corner in the 34th minute.
Barcelona added a third before the break, with Luis Suarez heading home a Jordi Alba cross, before Nelson Semedo produced a fine finish around the hour mark and Messi completed the rout 15 minutes from time, firing home on the half-volley for his second goal of the match.
The strikes moved Messi onto 25 goals for the season, further in front of French hitman Karim Benzema in the Pichichi Trophy stakes for La Liga top-scorer, with the Real Madrid forward on 21 goals.
Last weekend Messi joined Thierry Henry as the only players this century to have registered 20 or more goals and assists in the same season.
Henry achieved the feat while at Arsenal, scoring in the 24 goals and providing 20 assists in the 2002/03 Premier League season.