Messi closes on Champions League record as new milestone awaits

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Lionel Messi has made surpassing greats look easy in 2012 - and now he has another in his sights as he prepares to take to the field for Barcelona's Champions League clash against Spartak Moscow this evening.

Messi moved passed Pele's record of 75 goals in a single calendar year last week in his attempts to surpass Gerd Muller's all-time record of 85, with eight games remaining for the Argentinian genius to further cement his place in football history.

Now he has Ruud van Nistelrooy's Champions League goal tally in his sights as he tries to hunt down Raul's European goalscoring record.

In a career spanning eleven years, Van Nistelrooy marked himself out as one of the deadliest strikers on the continent, first with PSV Eindhoven before making the move to Manchester United and then Real Madrid.

Excluding qualifying rounds, the Dutchman bagged 56 goals in the Champions League for the three clubs in 81 games to put him second in the all-time list behind Raul, who scored 71 times in 144 games.

Now though Messi requires just two goals to pull alongside Van Nistelrooy and a hat-trick against Moscow in order to establish himself as the second most prolific scorer in European football history.

And unfortunately for Moscow, Messi has previous form, putting two past Unai Emery's side when they met at the Nou Camp earlier this season.

At just 26 years of age it would appear as though Messi is on course to displace Raul at the top of the list. In each of the last four seasons Messi has been the top scorer in the Champions League, while last time round he set a new mark by finding the back of the net 14 times, the most ever scored in a single European campaign campaign.

Now, would you bet against him surpassing Van Nistelrooy tonight? Thought not.

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