Lionel Messi scored his 644th competitive goal in Barcelona colours when he slotted the ball past Jordi Masip in a 3-0 LaLiga Santander win against Real Valladolid. This goal allowed him to surpass Pele's long-standing record of 643 goals which he scored for Santos, helping Lionel Messi cement his legacy in the history books even further.
Santos believe that the goals he scored against the likes of Internazionale, Real Madrid, and other European giants in the 20th century have been 'ostracized', and that they are of great value, due to which they should be included as part of his tally.
In a lengthy statement released in the aftermath of Lionel Messi's 644th Barcelona goal, Santos say that Pele's tally stands exactly at 1091. The statement on the club's official website read;
"In the accounts of the specialized press, the King of Football scored 643 in competitions and the 448 goals scored in matches and friendly competitions were ostracized, as if they had less value than the others."
"The 448 goals which they are trying to omit today were scored against the top clubs from those seasons. Pele scored nine goals against each of Club America (Mexico) and Colo Colo (Chile). He also put eight past Inter Milan, one of the best European clubs in 1960."
"The list is immense and with big clubs: River Plate, Boca Juniors, Racing, Universidad de Chile, Real Madrid, Juventus, Lazio, Napoli, Benfica and Anderlecht. Barcelona themselves, where Messi plays, were also one of Pele's victims: four goals, scored in four games."
"The argument of some analysts is that many of these 448 goals scored in friendly matches were against weak opponents, like small teams or regional teams. Even so, the matches were played in official uniform with the official laws of the game and officially logged."
"We must remember that clubs could only play friendlies with the approval of the regional and national federations. That is one of the rules imposed by FIFA, the organiser of world football."
"Taking into account subjective attributes, like the strength of opponents, is not ideal for compiling statistical data. The numbers are absolute. A goal against Eibar is statistically the same as one scored versus Valencia. A goal against Transvaal (of Surinam) is worth the same as one scored against Real Madrid, in the middle of the Santiago Bernabeu."
If what Santos say is true and they continue to dispute recent developments, Lionel Messi will have to score 448 goals for Barcelona to break Pele's stunning record for most goals scored with a single club.
Pele's heartfelt message to Lionel Messi after record-equalling Barcelona goal
Despite Santos' statement regarding Lionel Messi needing over 400 goals more to break Pele's record, the Brazilian legend has already congratulated the Argentine for leveling his record earlier in the month.
The 33-year-old scored a scrappy header to register his 643rd goal for the Blaugrana in a 2-2 draw against Valencia at home, drawing praise from all over the globe for equalling Pele's tally for Santos before the club disputed it.
In a heartfelt post on social media, Pele said to Lionel Messi;
"When your heart overflows with love, it is difficult to change your path. Like you, I know what it's like to love wearing the same shirt every day. Like you, I know that there is nothing better than the place we feel at home. Congratulations on your historic record, Lionel. But above all, congratulations on your beautiful career at Barcelona. Stories like ours, of loving the same club for so long, unfortunately will be increasingly rare in football. I admire you very much."
There has been no official response to Santos' claims from either Lionel Messi's camp or Barcelona as of yet, so it remains to be seen if Pele's record will continue to remain intact or not.
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is set to miss the last game of 2020 for Ronald Koeman's side with an injury but is expected to return soon.
Published 28 Dec 2020, 19:12 IST