Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bro of the Week: Lionel Messi

By Jake Heston

Forget the comparison to Pele or being the heir of Maradonna, Lionel Messi is a soccer God and by far the greatest soccer player in the modern football era.

Lionel put on a clinic against Bayern Leverkusen Wednesday afternoon, netting an all-time record five goals in a single Champions League match. With multiple stages left, Messi has already equaled Ruud van Nistelrooy's Champion's League record of 12 goals for the entire CL season. The 24-year-old Argentine will most likely not catch Pele's record - 1,281 goals scored in 1,363 career games - but when it comes to being able to dominate a game, on any level of play, Messi is as supreme as any other player in history.

He has 28 goals this season in only 24 matches while being the smallest guy on the field every time he plays. Looking at Messi's awards is like looking at Michael Jordan's accomplishments - the scary thing is that Lionel still has 8-10 great years of professional goal-scoring left in the tank.

For a closer look at Messi's accomplishments,'s Ben Hayward delved deep into the career number of Messi. Needless to say, they're impressive.

3 - Messi has now scored three hat-tricks in the Champions League, equalling a record held by Filippo Inzaghi. Only three Barcelona players (Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o) had previously hit hat-tricks in the continental competition. He also became the first player to score two hat-tricks in one season in the Champions League.

3 - The Argentine won his third Ballon d'Or trophy earlier this year to draw level with previous three-time winners Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten. And he's still just 24.

4 - Messi has finished as top scorer in the Champions League on three occasions (the last three years) and is on course to lead the competition's scoring charts for a fourth consecutive year to level with Bayern Munich legend Gerd Muller as the only man to do so on four occasions in European Cup/Champions League history. The German tied at the top twice - Messi has finished as top scorer outright for the last three years and looks set to do so again this year.

5 - The Argentine is the first player in Champions League history to score five goals in a single match, the first in European Cup football since Ajax's Soren Lerby in 1979 and the first Barcelona player to net five since Zaldua in 1965.

6 - The Rosario-born forward has netted in six different competitions for Barca this season; La Liga, the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Supercopa, the Uefa Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the Champions League; to equal the feat set by team-mate Pedro in 2009.

10 -'s Player Rating for the Argentine after his stunning show against Leverkusen: Perfect.

12 - Messi has now taken his tally to 12 goals in Europe this term, equalling his own total from 2010-11 and drawing level with Ruud van Nistelrooy's 2002-03 record for the most number of goals in a single edition of the Champions League. And he now has up to five more games to set a new record.

18 - Since making his debut at the Catalan club in 2005, Messi has won 18 trophies with the Camp Nou outfit.

22 - Following his hat-trick against Switzerland last week, Messi now has 22 goals for Argentina in 67 games. Diego Maradona, incidentally, netted 34 in 91 internationals for the Albiceleste.

24 - In the first leg at Leverkusen, Messi's goal saw him become the record scorer in Champions League knockout games with 19. Last night's five strikes saw that mark rise to 24.

49 - The Argentine raised his Champions League tally to 49, surpassing Alessandro Del Piero (44), Filippo Inzaghi (46), Eusebio (47), Andriy Shevchenko (48) in the all-time list of scorers for the CL and European Cup. His five goals also saw him draw level with Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano in joint-fourth place, behind only Thierry Henry (51), Van Nistelrooy (54) and Raul (71).

53 - Messi's season-best total for Barcelona is the 53 he netted last season to tie with Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo in all competitions. He also has 53 goals for club and country so far this term, 48 of them for Barcelona with a potential 19 club games still to play.

93 - The Argentine has 93 assists for the Catalan club, including 73 in the last four seasons and 20 already this term.

188 - Since Pep Guardiola took over as coach at Barca, Messi has netted an incredible 188 goals in 201 official matches.

228 - In total, the Argentine now has 228 goals for the Catalan club, leaving him just seven short of the all-time Barca record of 235, held by Cesar Rodriguez.

SO, what's left to do for Messi?

If Messi wants to end the conversation of being the greatest player ever to live, he'll need to hold sports' most prized possession, the World Cup - although that golden boot from 2010 for top scorer in all Eupoean football looks nice!

We'll see if he can carry Argentina to in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Jake Heston is on twitter @Jheston0p 

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