At just 24, Barcelona star Lionel Messi has turned in 7 1/2 stunning seasons of first-team football, such that he is already often considered, along with the likes of Pelé, fellow Argentine Diego Maradona, and Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, as one of the best to ever play the game. In his time at Barcelona Messi has won five La Liga titles, five Supercopas, three UEFA Champions Leagues (including last year’s over Manchester United), two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups, and one Copa del Rey. That, for those counting, is a remarkable 18 titles in less than eight seasons.
There has been no shortage of individual achievements for the Argentine. He is the three-time defending winner of the prestigious FIFA World Player of the Year/Ballon D’Or, he has won the European Golden Shoe as the continent’s top scorer once, he’s been named to FIFA’s World XI of the year for the last five years, and more.
As of last night, Messi can add yet another achievement to his impressive resumé. With three goals in Barcelona’s 5-3 win over Granada, Messi eclipsed Barca legend César as the club’s all-time leading scorer. Coming into the match, Messi had 231 goals, just one behind César’s tally. With a left-footed volley that clanged in off the post just 17 minutes in, the record was equalled. In the 67th minute, Messi coolly lobbed the Granada keeper to move solely into first place. His third and final goal, completing his eighth hat-trick of the season, capped off the night.
At just 24, Messi is now Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer. Think about that: 24. Athletes tend not to reach their peak until about 27-30, and Messi is still considered one of his sport’s all-time greatest. It took just 314 games for Messi to score his 234 goals, which is an average of about .75 goals a game, making Messi one of the most efficient goal scorers ever.
Since his rise to the top of the footballing world over the last five years, the Argentine has received constant praise. After becoming the first player to score 5 goals in a Champions league game in Barcelona’s 7-1 win over German side Bayer Leverkusen in the second leg of their last-16 tie, some wanted to label him the greatest ever. Such praise was repeated after last night’s record breaking performance.
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola further commended his star. “We have to congratulate Messi, he has scored so many goals and is only 24, he does not just score ordinary goals but great goals and we hope he gets lots more for us, we can compare him perhaps the Michael Jordan of football. There are no players capable of dominating a sport with such superiority. In every sport there has existed only one player that can be considered as somebody unique. And this is the case. Yes, Messi can be compared to Michael Jordan,” he told BBC.
Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdez echoed his manager’s sentiments: “Messi is defining an era. He is the best.” Blossoming star Cristian Tello added his bit, saying, “I have no doubt that he will end up as the best to have ever played this sport. Each game he shows that he is on another level. He doesn’t stop surprising us.”
Surprising or not, Messi’s consistent excellence is a marvel to behold and certainly cements him as one of the sport’s greatest to lace up his boots.
Watch all 53 of Messi’s goals from the 2010-2011 season here.