434 games for Barcelona. 361 goals. 95 caps for Argentina. 44 goals. Six La Liga titles, two Copas del Rey, three Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups, an Olympic gold and a World Cup runners-up medal. Eight different world player of the year awards and countless other individual prizes. Not bad for 10 years’ work. Lionel Messi has a decent haul from his first decade and the next one is about to get underway.
Messi marked 10 years since his Barca debut this week. It was 16 October 2004 that he came on as a second half substitute against Espanyol, replacing Deco. Big things were expected of the little forward but no one could have predicted what followed.
Last season saw Messi questioned for perhaps the first time in his career. He spent more time injured than he had before and questions were asked over his commitment, with the World Cup on the horizon. If that was Messi playing at less than 100%, it barely showed, statistically at least. Messi was the second-highest rated forward in Spain, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, EuroFantasyLeague stats confirm.
Barca host Eibar on Saturday and Messi is set to overtake Telmo Zarra as the leading scorer in Primera history. Messi has 249 goals in the league and a brace would tie Zarra’s 60-year record, set largely for Athletic Bilbao. If he doesn’t surpass Zarra this weekend then the chances are he’ll do it a week later – against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu, no less.
Debate has raged in Spain over whether or not Messi should be celebrated at the Bernabeu if he breaks the record before or during the Clasico. Ronaldinho was once applauded by the Madrid faithful and if Messi gets the same treatment after once more confirming his place in the record books, it will rank alongside any of the more tangible accolades he has claimed.