Messi applauded by Betis fans after hat trick - 'I'm really grateful'

Valverde Despite Betis being on the receiving end we are all enjoying this era of Messi

Barcelona ace Lionel Messi was grateful to Real Betis fans after victory on Sunday.

The Argentina captain then linked up with pal Luis Suarez for a liquid second.

Messi added a second goal in stoppage time of the first half, doubling Barcelona's lead ahead of the break. Messi said he had never received such a tribute from opposing fans.

Messi, on 29 league goals, continued to run the show in the second half and the Betis fans were able to appreciate another remarkable display from the best player in the history of the sport. In the 85th, Barcelona's all-time leading scorer used one touch of his left boot to float the ball from the left side of the box over goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

The result sees Barca take another giant stride towards defending their La Liga crown and keeps them firmly on course for a potential treble this season.

The Argentine nearly repeated the trick when Barcelona won another free kick in a similar position seven minutes later, and again Messi got it on target but this time Lopez got across to make the save on the opposite side. I'm very grateful to them and happy for the victory, which was very important, ' Messi told reporters.

There are 10 rounds remaining, but with Messi and his teammates playing at this level and with such a large cushion of points, only a complete collapse could deny Barcelona a 26th league title and its eighth in 11 years. Messi fired into the feet of the Uruguayan, who took the ball one way and flicked it the other, behind his leg and into the path of Messi, who did the rest. He scored three goals and could have scored a fourth.

'It's significant that they cheer him, it's an acknowledgement'.

The Barcelona star curled in a free-kick, finding the top corner with a devilish left-footed strike.

After Messi's final strike, a brilliant chip from the edge of the box which went in off the underside of the bar, the home fans at the Benito Villamarin Stadium rose as one to hail the five-time Ballon d'Or victor. "But we didn't suffer at all", said Messi, who will return to Argentina duty in the upcoming global break, via Sport.

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