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Spain's La Liga comes up a winner in the numbers game

February 2, 2009 |  8:45 pm

Lionel Messi

While Rafael Nadal was doing his thing down in Melbourne over the weekend, a couple of other big names were grabbing the headlines in Nadal's native Spain.

Baseball might be a game of statistics, but soccer also can produce its fair share.

On Sunday, Argentina's Lionel Messi scored two goals to lead league-leading Barcelona to a come-from-behind victory. Messi's second goal, the game-winner, was the 5,000th that Barcelona has scored in La Liga. The ball, Messi said, would go straight into the club's museum.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid striker Raul had managed a memorable goal of his own on Saturday night while helping second-place Real to a victory. It was Raul's 307th goal for the club at which he has spent his entire career, and it tied the all-time Real Madrid record set by the legendary Alfredo di Stefano in the 1950s and 1960s.

Di Stefano won five European championships and eight Spanish championships with Real. Raul has won three European titles and six Spanish titles in his 15 years with the club.

There the comparison stops, however, because another statistic clearly shows not only the difference between the two players, but how the game has changed. Raul, 31, took 683 matches to score his 307 goals. Di Stefano, 82 and now Real Madrid's honorary president, scored his 307 goals in 396 games.

-- Grahame L. Jones

Photo: Lionel Messi reacts after scoring against Racing de Santander during their La Liga soccer match at El Sardinero stadium in Santander, Spain on Sunday. Credit: Alberto Aja / EFE / Associated Press