Lionel Messi has scored many hat-tricks during his illustrious career – but arguably his finest came on March 17, 2019.
The Barcelona legend scored three sensational goals at the Benito Villamarín Stadium, home of Real Betis, to help his side seal a 4-1 victory.
You probably remember the hat-trick well.
Messi broke the deadlock midway through the first half with a stunning 25-yard free-kick which left Betis goalkeeper Pau Lopez with absolutely no chance of saving.
He then doubled Barça’s advantage with a beautiful flick via the outside of his left boot following an exquisite no-look assist from Luis Suarez.
See full Messi’s individual highlights below;
Suarez then made it 3-0 in the second half before Loren Moron netted a consolation for the home side with just under 10 minutes remaining.
However, Messi completed his hat-trick in the 85th minute with one of the most incredible goals of his career.
Ivan Rakitic rolled the ball to the Argentine, who produced a magnificent lobbed finish into the far corner of the net over the helpless Lopez.
This was the 51st hat-trick of Messi’s career and the quality of his third goal earned him a standing ovation from the Real Betis fans.
Asked if he’d ever received such a reception from rival fans, Messi told reporters: “To be honest no, I don’t remember the opposition fans giving me an ovation for a goal. I’m very grateful for the response from the fans.
“We’re always treated very well when we come to this stadium. I’m very grateful and happy for the win, which was very important.”
Indeed, the victory saw Barcelona move 10 points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Ernesto Valverde, who was in charge of Barça at the time, said of Messi’s masterclass: “Leo’s match has been extraordinary. He scored three goals and could have scored a fourth.
“It’s evidence of the player he is. Despite the opposition being on the receiving end, we are all enjoying this era of his, which is unequalled.
“It’s significant that they cheer him, it’s an acknowledgement.”
Exactly one year later and Messi, along with every other professional footballer in Europe, is currently sat at home waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to blow over.
Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before Messi is back on the pitch showcasing his once-in-a-lifetime talent.