Messi scores 800th career goal – Opta numbers behind the GOAT’s latest landmark

Another week, another milestone for Lionel Messi as the Argentinian superstar scored his 800th career goal in Thursday’s friendly against Panama.

It’s been an almighty journey for the all-time great, who has basically won everything that’s on offer, earning a record haul of seven Ballons d’Or in the process.

The player, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, achieved his most recent milestone with a picture-perfect 89th-minute free-kick against Panama.

Despite hitting new milestones so frequently, Messi is approaching a point at the age of 35 where such achievements become somewhat rarer.

With that in mind, it’s worth celebrating Messi and his accomplishments while we still can – which is why Stats Perform delved into the Opta data behind his latest achievement.

On the receiver side

Almost 18 years have passed since Messi’s first goal in professional football. As a 17-year-old with limp hair, he snagged a pass from Ronaldinho before extracting a clever chip over Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena on 1 May 2005.

That goal has since become famous as it marked the arrival of Messi – it also shaped Valbuena’s career.

“The press calls me every time he breaks a record or achieves something important, especially the press from Catalonia,” he told Marca nine years later. “For me it’s a funny anecdote in my career as a goalkeeper.”

Well, for some it’s fine. Many goalkeepers have had to deal with Messi getting past them a few more times than Valbuena’s only concession.

A total of 232 goalkeepers had allowed a goal against Messi as of Thursday. However, no one conceded more than Diego Alves, the Brazilian having been beaten 21 times. Iker Casillas is a close second (19).

return the favor

Of course, Messi has also become synonymous with creativity throughout his career and has regularly set goals for his teammates.

But in view of his many goals, he also had to benefit from the many services provided by his colleagues – if he doesn’t do everything himself.

There are several players with whom he has developed particularly effective relationships on the pitch.

For years his combination with Dani Alves was unrivalled, the Brazilian assisting 42 of Messi’s goals, but then Luis Suarez joined them.

Suarez, Messi and Neymar were revered and feared front three, their understanding on the pitch was so deadly. The Uruguayan provided 47 assists for Messi in their six years together and no one else has scored more.

Messi also has his favorite clubs to score against. Impressively, Real Madrid (26) is at the top – but there are four teams he has punished more.

Athletic Bilbao (29), Valencia (31) and Atletico Madrid (32) all struggled against him, but if there was one side that looked like a slaughterhouse against Messi, it’s Sevilla (38).

Heights that few have reached

The world of soccer numbers can get a little muddy. What is an official goal? What is an official competition?

As such, there has been a lot of confusion over the years regarding players’ ‘official’ goals – we’re looking at you, Pele and Romario.

The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) considers Cristiano Ronaldo the world record holder and stated in December 2021 that the Portuguese striker became the first player to reach 800 official career goals.

This makes Messi the second to reach that number, with Opta confirming his career record. There remains a possibility that he will eventually reach 1,000. However, no one expects him to get there anytime soon.

Because no matter how good he stays, successes like 91 goals in one calendar year – like he did in 2012 – seem to overwhelm him today.

It was his best year to date, which – perhaps unsurprisingly – coincided with his most successful season (2011-12), in which he scored 82 goals.

Still, the 35 goals he scored in 2022 wasn’t a bad return, especially considering the seven en route to World Cup success with Argentina.

still coming?

There aren’t many records at Barcelona that don’t already belong to Messi. top scorer? Completed. Most appearances? Completed. The most photographed person at Camp Nou? Probably.

It seems unlikely that Messi will be at PSG long enough to make the same impact there but he certainly still has career goals in mind.

There’s the 1,000 goal mark mentioned above, but before that he’ll be eyeing more international success.

Messi’s free-kick that sealed Thursday’s 2-0 win left him just a point away from reaching 100 with Argentina and after that he might think about both Ali Daei (109) and Ronaldo (120) the two most prolific players to usurp international men’s football.

Similarly, with Ronaldo now out of the way in Saudi Arabia, Messi could also grab his record for most Champions League goals (140) – Messi is at 129.

But regardless of what else he does or doesn’t achieve, Thursday’s milestone is just another reminder of how fortunate we were to witness Messi’s truly remarkable career.


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