Lionel Messi's second hat trick in eight days took his season tally to 34 goals Sunday as Barcelona won 4-2 at Zaragoza to stay second in the Spanish league behind Real Madrid.
The Argentina forward, who also hit a hat trick last weekend against Valencia, now has a league-leading 25 goals after tormenting Zaragoza's defence with a combination of close dribbling, strength and deadly finishing.
"He's the best player in the history of football," Barcelona president Joan Laporta said.
Messi headed home Pedro Rodriguez's cross in the fifth minute, but it was his 66th-minute strike that will be added to his lengthening list of great goals.
He stole possession near halfway, bursting past one player before his quick feet left defender Matteo Contini on the turf. Contini could only clutch at his opponent's shorts as Messi beat goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez with a low shot that brought a standing ovation from most fans at La Romareda stadium.
"To describe Messi, I've run out of adjectives," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said.
Messi followed that up with a curled shot in the 78th to beat Jimenez and claim his fifth career hat trick.
"The team takes credit for the goals, I was lucky to score them," Messi said.
Zaragoza's Adrian Colunga took advantage of defensive lapses to score twice in the closing moments. But Messi's dazzling skills led Contini to drag him down for a 90th-minute penalty that Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted for his first goal in March.
Madrid and Barcelona both have 68 points, but Madrid leads on goal difference.
Mallorca moved into the Spanish league's Champions League places with a 4-1 victory over Atletico Madrid, while David Silva paced third-place Valencia to a 2-0 win over Almeria.
Valencia has 50 points, Mallorca 46, Sevilla 44 and Athletic Bilbao and Deportivo La Coruna both have 42.
Also, Racing Santander came from behind to win 3-1 at Osasuna and Nabil Baha scored two second-half goals as Malaga beat Villarreal 2-0.
Missing injured midfielder Xavi Hernandez and with Andres Iniesta on the bench, Barcelona still enjoyed the best first-half chances but Ibrahimovic headed a clear chance wide in the 30th and struggled on his return to the starting lineup.
Ibrahimovic then shot wide from two clear chances with only Jimenez to beat. Soon after, Colunga scored twice on the break.
But Messi again drove into the area, eluding several players, before Contini dragged him down for the penalty in the last minute.
"He needs goals after this tough streak he's been on," Messi said of the penalty from Ibrahimovic, who hadn't scored in the league since Feb. 14.
In Saturday's games, it was: Real Madrid 3, Sporting Gijon 1; Xerez 2, Tenerife 1; Deportivo La Coruna 0, Valladolid 2; Athletic Bilbao 2, Getafe 2 and Espanyol 2, Sevilla 0.