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Messi adds to phenomenal tally with ninth double of campaign

Cristiano Ronaldo may never be the darling of Spain but his great rival Lionel Messi remains popular and demonstrated why once again.

The Argentinian grabbed his ninth double of the season in Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Real Zaragoza on Saturday to keep the Catalans six points clear at the top of La Liga.

Messi has now scored 12 in his last eight matches while equalling Brazilian legend Pele's record of 66 club goals in a calendar year.

He sits eight behind Gerd Muller's 1972 total of 85 goals (club and country) in a single year.

Ronaldo failed to register as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 5-1 – his third blank in four games. Five different players got on the scoresheet for Real..

In Serie A, four players were sent off, three from Palermo, as Bologna beat the Sicilians 3-0.

Inter Milan failed to capitalise on leaders Juventus' 0-0 stalemate with Lazio and remain four points behind in second after they drew 2-2 at home to Cagliari.

Two goals from Alberto Aquilani helped Fiorentina thrash Atalanta 4-1 to go joint third, alongside Napoli, who drew 2-2 with AC Milan.

Irish Independent