ROME: Lionel Messi scored a hat trick as Barcelona opened its Champions League campaign with a dominant 4-0 win over Ajax on Wednesday.
At the Camp Nou, Messi scored his 60th, 61st and 62nd career goals in his 80th Champions League match.
“Barcelona is full of individual talents,” Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said. “Today we can talk about Messi and Valdes, another day Xavi or Neymar. It is normal that one of them rises to the occasion.”
Messi, the four-time FIFA world player of the year, opened the scoring in the 22nd minute after he was fouled on the edge of Ajax’s area, then stepped up to fire in a perfect-placed free kick.
The Argentina forward doubled the hosts’ advantage in the 55th by hitting on the break when Ajax was caught looking for the equalizer.
Neymar, on his European debut, set up Gerard Pique to add Barcelona’s third goal in the 69th before Messi completed his hat trick in the 75th.
Messi’s treble leaves him nine goals short of Raul Gonzalez’s all-time record of 71.