Messi busts Champs League goal record

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi set a Champions League scoring record of 74 goals when he netted a hat-trick in Tuesday's 4-0 Group F win at Apoel Nicosia.

The Barca and Argentina captain surpassed the record of 71 he jointly held with former Real Madrid and Schalke 04 striker Raul Gonzalez when he put his side 2-0 ahead shortly before half-time.

The 27-year-old added two more goals in the second half to complete his 31st career treble, his fifth in Europe's elite club competition and the first in which he has scored all three with his less-favoured right foot.

"I am pleased to have achieved such a nice record in such a nice and important competition, but the really important thing is the three points," Messi said in a television interview.

His achievement is the latest milestone in a stellar career, and comes three days after he broke the 59-year-old La Liga scoring record with a hat-trick in Barca's 5-1 home win over Sevilla.

Messi overhauled former Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra's tally of 251 goals, set in 1955, and has 253 in 289 league games for the Catalan club he joined as a 13-year-old.

Messi's 74 Champions League goals came in 91 appearances, while Raul needed 142 for Real and Schalke 04 for his 71.

Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who ended Messi's four-year run as World Player of the Year last year with his second award, has scored 70 Champions League goals in 107 matches.

Barca boss Luis Enrique claimed that Messi's achievements could rival those of any sportsman in history.

"Messi is the best player of all time and, given that football is the king of sports, he can be compared to anyone. He doesn't tire of scoring goals and we are proud to have him with us," he said.

He was also full of praise for Messi's fellow striker, Luis Suarez, who opened his account for Barcelona following his close-season move from Liverpool.

"Suarez will score many more goals and he is a player who contributes much more than goals to the team," said Enrique.

Apoel coach Giorgos Donis heaped praise on Barcelona and Messi, telling reporters that the Spanish side were on "another level".

Of Messi, he said: "He is a phenomenon and can do incredible things with a football."

Despite the accolades, Messi is targeting victory over Paris Saint-Germain and top spot in Group F. Barcelona need to beat the French champions on Dec 10 to avoid the danger of meeting the likes of Bayern Munich in the last 16.

He said: "The PSG match is going to be tough. They have some very good players and they are a team who are growing and improving all the time.

"But we are playing at home, so we'll try to play a great match and finish first in the group."