ROME • Gonzalo Higuain was in high spirits on Saturday after a hat-trick in a dramatic 4-0 rout of Frosinone set a new all-time record of 36 goals in an Italian Serie A season and fired Napoli into the Champions League.
"I feel immense joy at overtaking this record," the Argentinian said at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. "But I need to thank a lot of people, from my family to all the people of Napoli, the players and the medical staff."
In scenes not seen since the heady days of Diego Maradona on their second title win in 1990, Napoli fans packed out the San Paolo stadium hoping to see local hero "Pipita" set a new record.
Sitting on 33 goals, Higuain was still two short of Gunnar Nordahl's 1950 record of 35 scored in a 20-team Serie A campaign.
The striker scored his 34th goal in the 52nd minute when he diverted a low cross past Frosinone goalkeeper Massimo Zappino.
A packed San Paolo erupted, but more was to come from the former Real Madrid striker.
Higuain had his second of the night, and record-equalling 35th, when he glanced Jose Callejon's cross past Zappino just after the hour.
When the Argentinian hit his third of the night 10 minutes later, it was an acrobatic strike he took on the turn, leaving Zappino with no chance.
He could have finished with even more goals had he not served a three-match ban last month as punishment for pushing the referee in a 3-1 defeat at Udinese.
He said: "I feel very proud because everyone helped me to achieve this feat. I knew I could do it, but I had to stay calm. In the first half, I didn't manage to, but in the second I did."
Champions Juventus, who secured a record-equalling fifth successive title last month, capped their campaign on Saturday with a 5-0 rout of 10-man Sampdoria in Turin, where Paulo Dybala struck twice for the hosts.
It left the Argentinian striker with 23 goals in his first season at the club - one more than compatriot Carlos Tevez in his opening Juve season.
Dybala said: "I think no one expected a season like that after Tevez's first year. I'm delighted. It's been a great day and we get to lift the trophy in front of the fans."