Messi 3 goals from Spanish league's top scorer

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi is three goals away from equaling the Spanish league's all-time scoring record, a milestone that has stood untouched for almost 60 years.

Athletic Bilbao great Telmo Zarra scored 251 goals in 271 games from 1940-55.

Since netting his first goal for Barcelona in 2005, Messi has 248 goals in league play.

Saturday's match at Rayo Vallecano will be his 284th league appearance.

"Right now, I am not thinking about the record," Messi said on Thursday. "But it will be nice to become the top scorer of one of the best leagues in the world. So many good players and scorers have played here. It will come when it is supposed to."

Already Barcelona's all-time leading scorer, Messi holds the league's single-season scoring record of 50 in 2011-12.

The 27-year-old Messi scored his 402nd goal for club and country on Wednesday in Barcelona's 3-2 loss at Paris Saint-Germain, its first defeat in eight games this season. He has 360 goals for Barcelona and 42 for Argentina, which he led to the World Cup final in July.

Messi has five goals in six rounds this season to help Barcelona top the league standings. But his passing has been just as brilliant, especially in connection with Neymar. Four of Messi's six assists in the league have gone to the Brazil striker.

Messi said he has always liked looking for his teammates, but that new coach Luis Enrique's move to play all three forwards inside the area, instead of having two stay on the wing, has helped him link up with Neymar.

"I have a very good relationship with (Neymar)," Messi said. "He is a fabulous guy and we get along very well both on and off the pitch. We haven't known each other that long, but we have a very good relationship."

Messi is also racing Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo to reach Raul Gonzalez's Champions League record of 71 goals. Messi has 68 while Ronaldo has 69, not counting another goal scored in the qualifying rounds.

But Messi denied he is involved in a personal duel with the player who took the world player of the year award from him last season, after Messi won it for an unprecedented four straight years.

"I don't compete with Cristiano at all. I just play my game and do my duty," Messi said.

"And I am not interested in competing with him or anybody else. I've said many times that individual awards are the less important ones for me. I hope to be able to play a great season and help my team achieve the goals we have set at the beginning of the season. And in a club such as Barcelona those goals are winning titles."

Messi's titles with Barcelona include three Champions League trophies. Last season was the first time since 2006-07 that the club failed to win a major title.

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