There’s little doubt that in the modern game, Barcelona forward and pint-sized Argentine Lionel Messi is the greatest of all time. Earlier this month, he won the Ballon d’Or for the world’s best player a record sixth time. Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk was the runner-up, while Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s won the award five times, came in third. In homage to La Pulga Atomica, let’s take a look back at some of his greatest records and achievements.
As things stand, UEFA Champions League odds consider Barcelona one of the favourites for European success this season. With a game to spare, they are through to the knockout stages, topping Group F.
We all know Messi’s a goal machine, but it’s not until you read the stats that you realise how prolific he really is. He holds the record for the most goals scored for a single club in the Champions League with 114. While overall, Ronaldo has scored more, his have come while playing for three clubs (Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus). It also took the Argentine just 123 games to net a century of goals, which came against Chelsea in March 2018.
Since it was rebranded as the Champions League, Messi holds the records for the most goals scored in a single game (five versus Bayer Leverkusen in 2012) and most goals in a tie (six, in the same fixtures against Leverkusen), but he shares the record for the most hat-tricks with Ronaldo (eight).
Messi’s La Liga stats are even more impressive. An all-round forward, not only is he the top goalscorer in the domestic league with 428 goals, but he’s also the top provider with 166 assists. During the 2011-12 season, he contributed 50 goals across all competitions, another record. Never content with scoring just once, Messi also holds the records for the most braces (106) and hat-tricks (34) in La Liga.
He knows how to score in the big occasions too. 27 goals in El Clásico, 25 in the derbi barceloni and 24 in the Athletic–Barcelona Clásico are all among his accolades, making him top goalscorer in each of the major derbies. In terms of landmark goals, he was the first player to reach 300 (v Sporting Gijon, February 2016), 350 (v Alaves, August 2017) and 400 (v Eibar, January 2019) La Liga goals – impressive, and he’s not too far away from 450!
His goal tally is remarkable, there’s no denying that. But Messi is the only player in La Liga history to score over 20 goals in 10 consecutive seasons, also scoring more than 30 goals in seven different seasons. He’s currently on nine for the campaign, so there’s no reason why he can’t extend that record.
The only major honour missing from Messi’s cabinet is the World Cup. The closest he came was in 2014, when Argentina finished as runners-up to Germany. For all the records he holds for his country – from being the all-time top goalscorer with 70 goals to being the youngest player, goalscorer and captain of the side – you can’t help but think that Qatar 2022 will be his last opportunity to win that all-important trophy. While his legacy will forever live on once he’s hung up his boots, there’s just one accolade missing.