Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to become Barcelona’s all-time top scorer as the Catalan side warmed up for next weekend’s El Clasico against Real Madrid with a 7-0 victory over CA Osasuna that put them four points off the top of La Liga.
The Argentine now has 371 goals for Barca in all matches including friendlies, surpassing the record of Paulino Alcantara, who notched up 369 goals playing for the club between 1912 and 1927.
Messi struck the opener after 18 minutes to put his club on the way to a morale-boosting victory ahead of their crunch game at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Barca knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League on Wednesday last week, but went into the Osasuna clash on the back of two losses from their past three Liga games.
At the Camp Nou on Sunday, Alexis Sanchez pounced to double Barca’s lead after 22 minutes and Andres Iniesta hit a fine left-foot drive from long range with little more than 30 minutes gone.
Chances continued to come and go before Messi bagged another with a shot into the roof of the net from close range just after the hour, before substitute Cristian Tello found the net with a powerful strike.
Messi was given time in the area to score his third late on — his 18th of the season — and then set up Pedro to complete the rout in stoppage-time.
“As long as the people want me here I will stay here. My intention is to retire with the Barcelona shirt,” Messi told reporters after the game.
Looking ahead to the Clasico, he added: “Hopefully, we can play a good game. We know it will be difficult, but we will do our best to fight for the league until the end.”
Barca manager Gerardo Martino was cautious about going into the Real match on the back of a resounding win, telling a news conference: “It helps to play well before going to the Bernabeu, but we mustn’t get carried away.
“It isn’t easy to score seven goals, but we can’t go from being one moment a disaster to the other fantastic,” he added.
Brazilian Neymar was a surprise absentee from the starting lineup in a win that left Barca on 66 points from 28 matches, four behind Real and one adrift of Atletico Madrid, who beat RCD Espanyol 1-0 on Saturday.
There were some anxious fans in the Camp Nou after the Spanish champions’ recent poor run, but Messi calmed their nerves with the opening goal from a well-worked passing move. Xavi found Sanchez, who rolled the ball across the area for Messi to steer home.
The Chilean continued his good form with his 17th goal of the season, slotting a left-wing cross from Jordi Alba.
Barca were stroking the ball around with confidence when Iniesta found his range with a shot from outside the area which found the corner.
Messi combined with Iniesta to get another midway through the second half before Tello, who came on a minute earlier, cracked in a long-range effort. With Osasuna in disarray, Messi and Pedro hit two more.
In other Liga action on Sunday, Real Sociedad boosted their Champions League hopes as Imanol Agirretxe gave them a 1-0 win over Valencia that put them in fifth on 46 points.
In Erreala’s first win in three attempts, Valencia had more of the ball, but los Che were missing suspended in-form striker Paco Alcacer and struggled to create chances.
Jonas did shoot for the visitors before the break, but it went wide and Agirretxe then flicked a header into the top corner on the hour mark to seal the win.