For Lionel Messi, breaking records is no problem, but against Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday night, he spelled out just why so many believe he is the greatest player to have kicked a ball.
In his 700th appearance for Barcelona, he scored his 613th goal for the club and registered his 237th assist, figures that are hard to compete with at this level of the game – even for some of the most gifted stars in the history of the sport.
He not only marked his landmark appearance with a goal and two assists in the routine 3-1 win over Dortmund, he also snatched another milestone by netting against the most Champions League opponents, overtaking rival Cristiano Ronaldo, having scored against 34 different teams.
Lionel Messi celebrates his 613th goal for Barcelona in his 700th game against Dortmund
The Argentine has lifted 34 trophies for the club in an incredible career spanning 15 years
The Catalan outfit’s talisman made his debut as a 19-year-old in 2004, but while most people at the club could clearly identify his talent, no one could have possibly predicted the incredible impact he would have had 15 years later.
Messi will be 33 next summer but in truth, it’s hard to see his level dropping, and when it comes to goal-scoring, he doesn’t let up. This season he’s already bagged ten goals in 13 games despite missing a chunk of the season so far with a calf injury.
Hitting 613 is no easy feat and it takes a high level of consistency over many years, which is exactly why Messi is so admired, because he constantly produces the goods. A break down of his goals shows he has 218 single strikes, 125 braces, 40 hat-tricks and five quadruples – scoring five in a game once.
On five occasions he has managed to get more goals than games played throughout a season, with his highest tally coming in arguably his greatest personal campaign of 2011/12, when he scored an unbelievable 73 goals across all competitions. Surprisingly his efforts weren’t enough to win La Liga or the Champions League for Barcelona, who only lifted the Copa Del Rey that season.
The following season saw him hit 60 goals in a season that saw the club win their La Liga crown back. And if you thought that Messi would regress with age, it’s worth noting that he has scored over 100 goals in the last three seasons.
Messi was scintillating in the 2011/12 season as he netted an incredible 73 goals in 60 games
The last time Messi failed to score more than 40 was over ten years ago when he managed 38
You have to go all the way back to the 2008/09 season for the last time the forward failed to score more than 40 in one season – and he just came up short with 38.
But it’s not just goals Messi offers, his mazy dribbling with the ball almost glued to his feet can be a nightmare for defenders, but his chance creation is also second to none. In each of the last ten seasons, he has helped his team-mates by reaching double figures for assists, with his biggest total coming in 2014/15, when he had 23, after registering 21 in both 2011/12 and 2010/11.
These incredible numbers have helped Messi scoop a number of trophies throughout his career, even if he hasn’t been able to translate that success for his national team.
He holds the 2011 Champions League trophy after masterminding a win over Man United
Messi stands with Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta as they lift up the Copa Del Rey in 2017
The Argentine has won the Ballon D’or a record five times – joint with Cristiano Ronaldo
He has won the La Liga title ten times, the Copa Del Rey on six occasions and the Spanish Super Cup eight times. On the world stage, Messi has lifted the Champions League four times – scoring in two of those finals – the UEFA Super Cup three times, as well as three Club World Cups. If that wasn’t enough silverware for the 32-year-old to look back on, he’s also won the Ballon D’or five times.
So how does all of that compare to some of the greats of the game?
Benfica legend Eusebio managed 580 club goals in 575 games, winning 11 Portuguese league titles and one European Cup, while Real Madrid’s Ferenc Puskas, who has a goal award named after him, netted 622 in 629 outings in an astonishing career as he led the club to five consecutive league wins and three European Cups.
Goal machine and former Barcelona star Romario scored 679 in 886 games throughout a long career, although he later turned out for a number of teams in Brazil, Qatar and Australia, whereas Messi has been consistent at the top level.
Ronaldo is the only player in the modern footballing era whose record comes close to Messi’s
The only man who can stand up to the Argentine magician in the current era is Cristiano Ronaldo. Two years Messi’s elder, the Portuguese forward recently hit 600 goals and is now on 607 after 821 career appearances.
The pair were regular rivals during their time in La Liga, where Ronaldo scored 450 in 438 games, scoring over 40 goals in every season apart from his first campaign, where he netted 33. When it comes to honours, he offers stiff competition with 27 trophies, and both stars are tied on five Ballon D’ors each, with years of discussion over who is the world’s greatest between them.
That debate is set to rage on for a few more decades, but Messi’s phenomenal records only point to one conclusion – he is nowhere near from finished yet.