Numbers do not always convey the full story in sports.
But Lionel Messi’s record at Barcelona would not be one of those vague statistics.
The Argentine superstar has been synonymous with the club from Spain for more than a decade now and his statistics make his domination quite clear.
So, it is understandable that when he sends a fax to the club to convey that he wants to leave, the news becomes potentially the biggest football story of 2020.
When Messi won an unprecedented sixth Ballon d’Or in December last year, the speculation had already begun over his career at Barcelona.
The 33-year-old genius was increasingly unable to single-handedly rescue his imploding club, as he had done so often in the past.
Barcelona, despite lifting the La Liga title, had collapsed at the end of the 2018-’19 season, losing a 3-0 semi-final lead, including two Messi goals, to Liverpool in the Champions League. They then dropped the Copa del Rey final 2-1 to Valencia, where the Argentine was again on the scoresheet, this time though just a late consolation.
But all that paled in comparison to Barca’s barren 2020, capped by a shocking humiliation in Lisbon against Bayern Munich. It marked the first time Barca had conceded eight goals in a game since losing to Sevilla 8-0 in the 1946 Spanish Cup.
And potentially, it could be the last time Messi turned up in Barcelona’s famous colours.
Messi at Barcelona
|Club||Matches||Goals||Assists||Yellow Cards||Minutes played|
The growing turmoil enveloping Barcelona has been reflected in Messi’s diminishing output, if one could call it that. Though he managed 31 goals in all games during the virus-interrupted campaign just ended, it was his lowest return since 2007-’08, when he was just 20. Despite everything going on around him, Messi still ended up topping the goal-scoring chart in the La Liga.
La Liga top-scorers in a season since 2009/10
LaLiga's all-time leading goalscorers
|Rank||Player||Years||Goals||Appearances||Goals per game|
|1||Lionel Messi||2004 – ?||444||485||0.92|
Most times to be top-scorer in LaLiga
|Player|| No of times top-scored in LaLiga||Seasons|
|Lionel Messi||7||2009–10, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20|
|Telmo Zarra||6||1944–45, 1945–46, 1946–47, 1949–50, 1950–51, 1952–53|
|Alfredo Di Stéfano||5||1953–54, 1955–56, 1956–57, 1957–58, 1958–59|
|Quini||5||1973–74, 1975–76, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1981–82|
|Hugo Sánchez||5||1984–85, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1989–90|
Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the only two active players to belong to the prestigious 700 goals club. Gerd Muller, Ferenc Puskas, Pele, Romario and Josef Bican are the others to score that many in their careers.
Messi has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, winning a club-record 33 trophies, including 10 La Ligas, four Uefa Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and six Spanish Cups.
Equally effective as a mesmerising playmaker or lethal goalscorer, Messi holds the records for most goals and most hat-tricks in La Liga and has scored more than 700 senior goals for club and country.
But his greatest year was long ago. In the 2011-12 season, under Guardiola, he became Barcelona’s all-time top goalscorer at just 24 years old, breaking Cesar Rodriguez’s 232 goal mark which had stood for 57 years.
That year Messi netted a Liga record 50 goals on the way to a European all-time record season tally of 73, breaking Gerd Mueller’s 67 goals scored in the 1972–73 German season.
Messi in La Liga - by year
Messi in the Champions League
Almost a decade on, Messi still harbours unfulfilled ambitions, including another Champions League crown and an elusive major trophy with Argentina to add to his 2008 Olympic gold.
With time running out on a career that has seen a record six Ballon d’Ors and six Golden Shoes, those are major factors in convincing him to end his playing days away from the club that has been his home since he arrived as a 13-year-old.
And a reunion with Pep Guardiola could just be too much to turn down, given his incredible record under the former Barcelona midfielder.
Messi under different coaches at Barca
|Coach||Matches||Goals||Assists||Yellow Cards||Minutes played|
|Henk ten Cate||-||-||-||-||-|
Messi -- performance in different positions
Here are some more incredible numbers from Messi’s time at Barcelona:
All stats courtesy: Transfermarkt.com
With inputs from AFP
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