The Argentine striker opened the scoring with a free-kick before notching twice more from close range
Lionel Messi needs just one more hat-trick to equal Cristiano Ronaldo’s La Liga record of 34 after scoring three times for Barcelona against Real Betis on Sunday.
The Catalan giants cruised to a 4-1 victory at Benito Villamarin Stadium, with Luis Suarez notching Barca’s other goal to equal Diego Forlan as the joint-highest Uruguayan in La Liga history.
Messi slammed home a 25th-minute free-kick to claim a 1-0 lead before firing in two clinical finishes from close range, including a delightful chip over Betis goalkeeper Pau Lopez for his third, to round off a stunning performance and bag his 33rd hat-trick in the Spanish top flight.
And it is surely now only a matter of time before Messi draws level with his Portuguese rival in the La Liga hat-trick count after Ronaldo moved to Serie A champions Juventus last summer.
Barca now have a 10-point lead over Atletico Madrid and a 12-point lead over Real, and their talisman Messi has played a considerable role in their dominant title defence.
The Argentina international has now scored 29 league goals – more than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues this term.