Lionel Messi is yet to sign his new contract with FC Barcelona

Messi is playing his best since Neymar exit

Messi is playing his best since Neymar exit

Paulinho and Denis Suarez also netted for the second consecutive game as Barca stretched its lead at the top of La Liga to seven points over Real Madrid. To keep repeating it is the most hard thing. He's an incredibly talented player, extraordinary.

"There are no words to describe him".

After suffering a summer of failure - losing Neymar to Paris Saint Germain and not managing to sign his preferred replacement in Philippe Coutinho, Barca were expected to flop this season and Los Blancos were anticipated to soar to Spanish domination.

The current record for most goals in a single La Liga campaign is now 50, set by Messi during the 2011/12 season, which came hot on the heels of Cristiano Ronaldo's initial record breaking effort of 40 in the 2010/11 season.

The five-time world player of the year completed his hat-trick just after the hour mark by prodding through Dmitrovic's legs from Paulinho's pass.

While maintaining a strike rate of 1.8 goals a game for an entire season sounds ludicrous, let's just remember that until a few years ago, so did scoring 50 goals in a single league campaign, so let's not discount Messi's chances of breaking his own record, just yet. The Catalans lead La Liga by two points from Sevilla after winning all five of their matches at the start of 2017-18.

By contrast, a fifth straight defeat to start the season sees Malaga slip to bottom of the table and plunges coach Michel into further danger of becoming the second La Liga boss to be sacked this term. "I know Leo well and he's a fine player".

"I didn't have anything to prove", Zaza told BeIN Sports Spain. The absence of Messi's signature on his supposedly agreed new contract is a distraction the club could do without.

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