There is little doubt that Lionel Messi is one of the greatest players of all-time, let alone that of the current generation of superstars. The Argentine's scintillating ability on the pitch, accolades, and career compares with and betters some of the greatest to have played the game.
The world bore witness as Barcelona's incredibly talented youngster break onto the scene and grew into shoes that perhaps will be difficult to fill for any future successor. The standards set, records broken, and the longevity on display are all too much of an ask for anyone to match.
Now, at 33, Messi is approaching the twilight years of what has been a simply spectacular career. The forward began his life as a footballer in breathtaking fashion, and would hope to end his career on a high as well.
Here, we take a look at some of the greatest achievements racked up by Messi throughout one of football's most legendary careers.
#5 2012: A year for the history books
Messi has been synonymous with some of the most stellar goalscoring feats in football. None more so, perhaps, than his record-shattering 2012 season. During the calendar year 2012, Messi smashed in a whopping 91 goals for club and country in 69 games, setting the record for the most goals scored in a year. The previous record was held by Gerd Muller, who scored 85 goals in 1972.
Messi bettered Der Bomber's tally when he scored 79 for the Blaugrana (59 in LaLiga Santander, 13 in the UEFA Champions League, 5 in the Copa del Rey and 2 in the Spanish Super Cup) and a further 12 (a joint-highest figure along with Gabriel Batistuta) for Argentina. Over the course of 2012, Messi even laid off a further 24 goals for his teammates, taking his goal contribution tally to a staggering 115.
They were also crucial strikes for Barcelona as his goals in the second half of the campaign sealed Barcelona's fourth LaLiga title in five years. Messi was simply unstoppable during the calendar year, and his 50 (!) goal LaLiga season remains the highest number of goals scored in a league campaign to date.
#4 Active LaLiga player with the highest league title wins
LaLiga has played host to some of the greatest names in the 21st century, including the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Andres Iniesta, Cristiano Ronaldo, and many more. However, purely in terms of the success they've achieved in LaLiga, not many can even compare let alone compete with what Messi has done.
Ever since making his competitive debut for Barcelona back in October 2004, Messi has amassed a staggering ten league titles, which is a number no active LaLiga player can match. The next active players on the list are his teammates Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique, with eight apiece. Iniesta, should he have stayed, could have hit double digits but ended his Barcelona career with nine to his name.
Messi is one of only three names to have reached double digits for LaLiga titles, along with Real Madrid demi-gods Pirri and Paco Gento. While the former is level with Messi, the latter is the record LaLiga title winner, having won 12 of them with Los Blancos. Messi could potentially go from being Barcelona's highest title winner to that of Spanish football itself, should he manage three more LaLigas before he retires.
#3 Highest scorer for Barcelona, LaLiga, and Argentina
One of the key aspects of Lionel Messi's performances have been how he can impact the game without scoring a goal. The Argentine evolved beautifully over his career to play multiple roles, and often, he has played the roles of a creator and finisher in the same game.
Although his playmaking ability is arguably the best in the world, it is his freakish goalscoring ability that never cease to amaze. Messi is currently the leading goalscorer in LaLiga history and leads the charts by a considerable distance as well. Former Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra scored 251 goals, a record that was beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo when he became Real Madrid's top scorer with 311 goals in 292 games.
Zarra and Cristiano make up the top three behind Messi, who has scored an eye-watering 444 LaLiga goals in 485 games. The 33-year-old is the only player to breach the 400 mark, and could realistically retire with a tally that is almost twice as much as third-placed Zarra's. As for Barcelona, Messi has a grand total of 634 official goals in 669 matches, which is at least 400 (!) goals more than the next player on the list (Cesar).
Messi is also the highest-ever scorer for Argentina, having racked up 70 goals in 138 games for La Albiceleste since 2005. He is just nine caps away from breaking Javier Mascherano's record for the most number of Argentina caps as well.
#2 Winning the sextuple and second treble with Barcelona
Winning a European treble is something of an unattainable dream for most clubs in the world. Even the great Real Madrid, who have won the UCL a record 13 times, have failed to win the league and domestic cup in the same season. There have only been eight such instances where a club managed to win a league title, the premier domestic cup competition and the UCL in the same season. Two of these eight trebles were achieved by Barcelona, both of which had Lionel Messi at the heart of their attack.
In 2008/09, Pep Guardiola's devastating Blaugrana side set a record that could understandably remain intact for years to come when they won a spectacular SIX trophies in a calendar year — the most by any club in history. Messi and co won the La Liga, the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, Champions League, European Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup.
Barcelona won the European treble once again in 2014/15 under Luis Enrique, when Messi was at his scintillating best alongside Luis Suarez and Neymar. The Argentine played a crucial role in both the trebles and is one of the only select few to have more than one of them to show for in their careers.
#1 Winning six Ballons d'Or
Lionel Messi is a name that has become synonymous with being in contention for the Ballon d'Or in every single year regardless of Barcelona's achievements in any given season. Such is the sheer ability of the Argentine, who mesmerises audiences and opposition defenders alike every single time he sets foot onto the pitch.
After a third-place finish in 2007 and one spot better in 2008 (when Cristiano won his first of five), the Argentine won a stunning four Ballon d'Ors on the spin between 2009 and 2012. Guardiola's Barcelona ripped apart almost every team they came across, and Messi was the Catalans' chief architect.
Although he didn't win for a couple of years, Messi returned to the pinnacle after Barcelona's historic second treble to win his fifth. In 2019, when he was level with Cristiano with five Ballons d'Or apiece, he left his eternal rival in second place after winning his record sixth Golden Ball — at least three more than any player in the history of the sport who isn't named Cristiano Ronaldo.
He has also won other individual honours such as the FIFA World Player of the Year and The Best FIFA Men’s Player, as well as the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup.