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Free-kick maestro Messi equals Koeman mark at Barca

By Reuters - May 11,2016 - Last updated at May 11,2016

FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi reacts after scoring during a Spanish La Liga football match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday (AP photo by Manu Fernandez)

VALENCIA, Spain — Almost everything Lionel Messi does looks effortless but the Barcelona forward insists a lot of practice goes into trying to perfect the free-kicks, which have contributed a sizeable chunk of his goals this season.

The 28-year-old Argentine has scored seven goals from direct free-kicks in this year’s La Liga, the latest in Sunday’s 5-0 triumph over Espanyol.

Messi now has 23 goals from free-kicks in his career at the club, equalling the previous record of former Barcelona star Ronald Koeman.

“Yes, the truth is that we train for this,” he said in an interview with ESPN.

“We work on how to move so that the ball goes to the right place and also you learn things over the course of your career.”

Messi had to wait until the 2008-09 campaign to take his first attempt from a direct free-kick for Barca, where Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Xavi Hernandez used to take set pieces.

Koeman’s thunderous right-footed free-kick gave Barcelona a win over Sampdoria for their first European title in 1992, but while the Dutchman focused on power, Messi is more about accuracy.

“To be honest, I like to hit the ball over the players’ wall but from time to time I like to mix it up a little bit so that the goalkeeper doesn’t know where I’m going and I want to keep him confused until I kick,” Messi said.

“I think for that reason, I like to keep the goalkeeper in doubt.”

Messi has scored 37 goals in 43 games in all competitions this season for Barca and the tally can further swell.

La Liga leaders Barca will attempt to clinch the title on Saturday at Granada and will then play in the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla on May 22.

Goal-machine Suarez

Luis Suarez could become Barcelona’s highest scoring Uruguayan in Saturday’s La Liga match at Granada, having equalled in only two seasons what compatriot Ramon Alberto Villaverde Vazquez aggregated in his decade-long stint with the club.

The 29-year-old’s brace against Espanyol in Barca’s 5-0 triumph last Sunday saw him reach 81 goals for the Catalans to equal the record of Villaverde Vazquez who had joined the club in 1954 and played 10 seasons, scoring 81 goals in 224 games.

In only his second season at Barcelona, Suarez has struck 50 goals in all competitions this season to help the team remain in contention for a domestic double, overtaking his previous record of 49 for Ajax in the 2009-2010 campaign.

“He is very intelligent,” Barca coach Luis Enrique said on the club website.

“Sometimes relying too much on one player can hurt you, but if the team plays its game, Luis — who is lethal in the area — will have plenty of chances to score goals. It’s not just the goals, it’s the way the team plays that lets him score.”

More goals are expected from Suarez, who has found the back of the net in four successive league games, netting 11 goals while setting up four more in that spell.

With 37 goals scored so far, four more than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and with one La Liga game remaining, Suarez is on the verge of clinching the Pichichi award as the top scorer in La Liga.

 

Since the 2008-2009 season, when Diego Forlan won it for Atletico Madrid, the award has gone to either Ronaldo or Messi.

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