Lionel Messi at 35: PSG, Argentina star’s records, milestones and goal-scoring feats

Lionel Messi is celebrating his birthday on Friday as he turns 35.

Messi is also nearing the end of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain (though the club has the option of extending it for another year), which might be a watershed moment in his career.

Of course, there’s no evidence that Messi is contemplating retirement at the highest level, but considering his age and contractual situation, it stands to reason that 2022-23 may be his final season at a big European team.

So we thought we’d celebrate the Barcelona and Argentina legend’s big day by taking a look back at certain aspects of his incredible career to date; all he has achieved, all he has yet to achieve and even a few of the big milestones he may still pass.

Messi left Barcelona on a free transfer in August 2021 after the club’s €1.2 billion debt stopped them from offering him a new five-year deal.

Having only played for one club since the age of 13, the transfer caused consternation in football, with many questioning whether a player of Messi’s magnitude would be able to adapt to a new environment after so many years playing HIS way at HIS club.

 

Messi has struggled to match the formidably high production of his Barcelona days, having the lowest single-season scoring rate of his career in his debut season in Paris.

 

Messi scored 11 goals in 34 games across all competitions in 2021-22, averaging 0.345 goals per 90 minutes at club level – his lowest output on record and poorest since 2007-08, when he averaged 0.43 goals per 90 minutes (16 goals in 40 games) in an injury-plagued season for Barcelona.

However, there was good news on the assist front, as Messi contributed 15 assists across all competitions, though all of them came in Ligue 1. This level is about similar with his average assist rate (20 in all competitions) throughout his previous nine club seasons at Camp Nou.

Messi also managed to add a new trinket to his incredible trophy haul by winning the Ligue 1 title in his maiden season — the 35th major club honour of his career.

Lionel Messi 5 goals new record for Argentina vs Estonia: How many times has La Pulga scored five in a match?

Club Vs Country Since 2021 (Per 90 Mins)

CLUB COUNTRY
Titles 1 2
Games 63 21
Minutes 5,489 1,769
xG 0.61 0.53
Goals 0.64 0.76
Shots 4.5 4.6
Touches 90 83
Fouls suffered 2.4 3.1
Chances 2.36 2.49
Assists 0.38 0.36
xA 0.40 0.42
Recoveries 2.1 3.1
Tackles 0.49 0.71
Tackle % 14% 30%
Duels 12.1 15.2
Duel % 57% 57%
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The next major tournament on Messi’s radar is the 2022 World Cup in Qatar which Argentina qualified for in good time, mathematically securing their place at the tournament with a 0-0 draw against rivals Brazil back in November 2021.

 

Ahead of the aforementioned CONMEBOL qualifier against Brazil, Argentina hadn’t lost a single match in 26 outings (a flawless run that dated back more than two years) and since that game, they have remained unbeaten in six further games into 2022.

Overall, Messi and teammates are on a 33-game unbeaten streak, having last lost a game in July 2019 when they were eliminated from the Copa America semifinals via a 2-0 defeat against eventual champions Brazil. And, in that time, Argentina managed to win the 2021 Copa America — their first major international honour in 28 years — by beating holders Brazil 1-0 in the final.

Individually, Messi has maintained an incredibly high level of work for his country, and while his stats for PSG may have decreased, the forward’s productivity in international football has increased since 2021. Indeed, he has improved his numbers per 90 minutes for Argentina across the board.

Messi has two big honours with his nation (2021 Copa America, 2022 Finalissima) in just 1,769 minutes of football, compared to one honour (2021-22 Ligue 1 title) in 5,489 minutes for PSG last season.

Messi has also outperformed himself in goals scored per 90 mins (0.76 for Argentina; 0.64 for PSG), shots attempted (4.6 vs. 4.5), one-on-one dribbles attempted (8.0 vs 6.1), chances created (2.49 vs. 2.36), and even ball recoveries (3.1 vs 2.1) and tackles (0.71 vs 0.49).

Of course the differences may be explained by the varying tactics used by his teams at club and international level, but nevertheless the numbers seem to suggest that Messi enjoys more of the ball and is more effective when shooting, dribbling, creating chances and working off the ball when playing for Argentina.

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Messi at 35

With the majority of professional players retiring in their mid-30s, it’s reasonable that output begins to decline around that age. We all know Messi isn’t “most footballers,” but just a few players beyond the age of 35 have managed to score 20 or more goals in a single season since 2010-11.

Only six veterans have accomplished this accomplishment in Europe’s Big Five leagues over that time period, with the bulk of them doing it in Italy’s Serie A.

Three players have reached 20 goal contributions in a single season on two occasions after turning 35 years old: Luca Toni (2013-14, 2014-15), Antonio Di Natale (2021-13, 2014-15) and Messi’s erstwhile rival Cristiano Ronaldo — first by mustering 32 goal contributions for Juventus in 2020-21 and then again the following season when he totalled 21 goal contributions for Manchester United.

Fabio Quagliarella (34 contributions for Sampdoria in 2018-19), Francesco Totti (24 for Roma in 2012-13), and Burak Yilmaz are the other players in charge (21 for Lille in 2020-21.)

The records he still holds

Messi’s place in football history is already assured, having won 38 senior titles since making his debut for Barcelona in October 2004.

Only one player has won more senior competitive trophies in that time and he just so happens to have played alongside Messi for the majority of it: Brazilian right-back Dani Alves is leading the way with 40 top honours.

For Messi, the one trophy that has (thus far) got away has been the FIFA World Cup, which he came so close to winning with Argentina in 2014 only to lose out to Germany in the final. It’s more than likely that Qatar 2022 represents his last chance to right that particular wrong.

As for individual records, Messi continues to hold a wide array that are unlikely to ever be surpassed.

These include (but are by no means limited to):

— Barcelona has the most official goals for a single club (672).

— Barcelona has the most assists for a single team (268).

— Barcelona scored 73 goals in a single club season in 2011-12.

— Only player in history to score 40 or more goals in 12 straight seasons and 30 or more goals in 13 consecutive seasons.

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— Most El Clasico derby goals (27), assists (14) and appearances (45) versus Real Madrid.

— Guinness World Record for top club and country goal scorer in a single calendar year (91 goals in official games in 2012.)

And believe us, it is only the tip of a tremendously massive iceberg.

Messi might still set records and achieve milestones.

According to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, Messi and Ronaldo are both on the verge of entering the insanely elite 500 League Goals club (IFFHS)

Messi has 480 club goals heading into the 2022-23 season, which places him 17 goals behind Ronaldo. With 497 goals, the 37-year-old Portugal international is on the verge of joining the likes of Ferenc Puskas (514 goals), Josef Bican (518), Romario (544) and Pele (604) in the pantheon of goal scorers.

 

Messi has 787 goals in all competitions and is only 13 goals away from joining Ronaldo (821) as the only two players in history to have scored 800 or more goals in official matches.

At the international level, Messi still has some catching up to do, having scored 86 goals for Argentina compared to Ronaldo’s 117 goals for Portugal – the current global record in men’s football. Ali Daei (109) of Iran is the only other male player to break 100.

When it comes to the Ballon d’Or, Messi was the second-oldest player ever to win the award in 2021 at the age of (34 years, 158 days) and now leads the all-time list with seven gongs. Ronaldo is his closest challenger (5) in this category, just as he lags Messi in the all-time list of European Golden Shoe winners (6 vs. 4.)

Given that Ronaldo is two years older than Messi, the former is unlikely to close the gap before calling it quits on his career. However, Sir Stanley Matthews was 41 years and 320 days old when he won the first Ballon d’Or in 1956, so maybe there is still time!


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