Lionel Messi celebrated his second straight Ballon d'Or award by scoring a hat trick in Barcelona's 5-0 win over Real Betis in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, the Spanish champions' 27th match unbeaten to equal a club record.
Messi, who took the prize ahead of teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez on Monday, was honored before the first-leg match at the Camp Nou stadium on Wednesday. The Argentina forward then showed why he was voted world player of the year.
Barcelona finally broke through against a composed Betis side in the 44th minute, Iniesta playing Messi through in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Casto Espinosa, who was caught off his line and beaten by a lifted shot.
Espinosa and Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto stood out in the first half with a number of important stops, but the Betis 'keeper could do little in the 64th. After making a reaction save to deny Messi, the rebound fell for the forward to slide the ball under him into the goal.
Messi completed his hat trick in the 73rd, beating the offside trap to reach Xavi's pass before shooting past Espinosa for his 31st goal of the season in all competitions.
Espinosa was helpless in the 76th despite making a save from Daniel Alves, who tapped the loose ball back for Pedro Rodriguez to send into the top of the net for his 15th goal of the season.
Second-division leader Betis' strong first-half performance was all but a memory when substitute Seydou Keita jumped high to head home in the 83rd.
"They were especially strong in the first half, when they pressured us so well," Alves said. "But the goals came in the second half. I think today any debate over who deserved the Ballon d'Or was settled. (Messi) deserves it."
Barcelona went 27 straight games without defeat during the 1973-74 season. This season's team will be aiming to surpass that mark and notch its 13th straight league victory against Malaga this weekend.
Earlier, Alexis Ruano scored in the 88th minute as defending champion Sevilla rallied for a 3-3 draw at Villarreal in the first leg.