Sunday, June 10, 2012

Messi Ends 'A Very Good Year' With Hat Trick

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For Lionel Messi, the amazing has become routine.

Capping his record-setting season with a spectacular display, Messi scored on three dazzling runs to finish with an unprecedented 82 goals for club and country and lead Argentina over South American rival Brazil 4-3 in an exhibition Saturday.

"It was a very good year, and this was a great way to finish it," Messi said through a translator.

Even injured Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera found his way into Argentina's locker room after the match, which drew 81,994 at MetLife Stadium -- a record for soccer in New Jersey.

"It's beautiful that people actually recognize me and know me and love my play," Messi said. "But again, I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't because of my teammates."

Already a three-time FIFA Player of the Year at age 24, Messi scored 73 goals in 60 games this season for Barcelona, breaking the previous European club record of 67 goals set by Bayern Munich's Gerd Mueller in 1972-73 and the world club record of 70 by Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in the American Soccer League in 1924-25.

Messi had nine goals in nine games for Argentina in the same span, raising his career total to 26 in 70 appearances. His goals in the 31st, 34th and 84th minutes gave him his second international hat trick and boosted his totals to 12 hat tricks this season and 22 in his career.

"I don't feel like I'm one of the best players yet," Messi said. "I want to keep growing, getting stronger and be in front of my team -- and win, of course, because when you win, everything's easier."

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