Lionel Messi closed the year with a total of 50 goals for club and country for the sixth straight time, helping Barcelona stay in position to keep the Spanish league lead entering the holiday break.
Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and Arturo Vidal also scored as Barcelona comfortably defeated Alaves 4-1 on Saturday to open a three-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid, which hosts Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Barcelona holds a five-goal advantage over Madrid in the tiebreaker between the teams. Barcelona and Madrid drew 0-0 in the first “clasico” of the season on Wednesday in a game postponed from October because of a separatist rally in the Catalan capital.
It was the ninth year Messi finished with at least 50 goals overall for club and country — 45 of them in 2019 for Barcelona, five for Argentina. He reached the mark every year since 2010, with the exception of 2013 when he had 45. Messi’s highest mark was 91 goals in total in 2012.
“We played only a few days ago, we were a bit tired, but we played a good match,” Griezmann said. “Now we get some deserved time off. We will try to get better when we come back. We can still improve.“
This is the last round before the break, with the league resuming in the first week of January.
“He gives us a great advantage,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “Leo can suddenly show up and score out of nowhere like that.”
Messi’s 50th goal came with a beautiful strike from outside the area in the 69th minute after a setup by Suarez.