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Lionel Messi’s Most Mind-Boggling Accomplishments

Though his list of records and accolades is already exhaustive, Argentina’s talisman still has one more mountain to climb.

By Andrew Woodin
Lionel Messi of Argentina in action during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi final match

Arguably the best soccer player in history, Lionel Messi’s superb play throughout the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has unquestionably been the engine to power Argentina into the final where the living legend now has the chance to check one final box on his career resume: World Cup champion.

In a heart-pounding finale that will see the 35-year-old square off against either France or Morocco – this year’s inspirational underdog on a quest to become the first African nation to reach a World Cup final – Messi valiantly leading “La Albiceleste” to its third World Cup title (1978, 1986) would not only be the final exclamation mark on an insanely prolific career, it would be destiny fulfilled. So, while he focuses ahead on his mission to garner his career’s final, missing accomplishment – perhaps the most transcendent of them all – here’s a look back at some of the mind-blowing feats the phenomenal footy magician has already accomplished.

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World Cup Records and Honors

As the youngest player to ever score for Argentina and the only player to ever score in his teens, 20’s and 30’s, Lionel Messi owns the record for the most World Cup appearances as a captain (18), eclipsing none other than fellow Argentine Diego Maradona (16), according to FIFA. By playing in the final, he’ll set the new record for most World Cup appearances (26), and if he can last until the 24th minute, he’ll become the new all-time leader in World Cup minutes played, passing Paolo Maldini (2,217). Messi holds the record as the only player to record an assist in five World Cup tournaments. Currently tied with PSG teammate Kylian Mbappé of France, Messi, the two-time Best FIFA Men’s Player, is in the running for the tournament's Golden Boot, with five tallies to his name so far.

Champions League Records and Honors

Though he ranks second behind Cristiano Ronaldo for all-time Champions League goals and assists (141 goals, 42 assists for Ronaldo; 129 goals, 40 assists for Messi, according to UEFA), Messi beats Portugal’s favorite son in several categories. Messi’s scored against the most different opponents (40); he’s the only player to score in 18 consecutive Champions League campaigns; and Messi holds the record for most goals in a single match when he netted five against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012. Tack that onto his records for the most Ballon d’Or awards (7) and the most European Golden Shoes of any player (6), and that’s the stuff of legend on its own. Though it hardly encapsulates Messi's brilliance.

La Liga Records and Honors     

If his previous accolades didn’t send you into a tizzy already, here are a couple whoppers that should do the trick. His 672 total goals for Barcelona are the most by a player for a single club, and he ranks first in nearly all main columns for La Liga: goals (474), wins (383), assists (192), goals in a single season (50), hat-tricks (36) and player of the month awards (8). His 10 La Liga championships are second only to Paco Gento’s 12, but Messi owns the record as the only player to score in seven different official competitions in a single year (La Liga, Copa de Rey, Champions League, Copa America, Super Cup, Supercopa de Espana and Club World Cup in 2015), according to Football365.

No other player has had more pressure relentlessly baring down upon him than Messi as he’s always been compared to Argentina’s other brilliant champion, Diego Maradona. While subjected to endless amounts of scrutiny, the greatest athletes – Messi, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Tom Brady – find a way to rise above the rest of us, tune out the noise and deliver victory after victory, each more epic than the last. For Messi, though, winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup final in Qatar on Sunday would be different than all of his past accomplishments as it has the power to finally do something they all couldn’t: silence the remaining few doubters who've questioned his ability to win when it counts the most.

Can't get enough soccer action? After the World Cup is over, be sure to watch Premier League coverage on USA Network, featuring Premier League Mornings, select matches, and Premier League Goal Zone (check listings for games/schedule). And catch up on all the action on Peacock.

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