Watch out, Qatar: 12 crazy stats that show Messi is back to his very best

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Lionel Messi of Paris Saint Germain runs in the field during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille at Parc des Princes on October 16, 2022 in Paris, France.

Lionel Messi is approaching the World Cup in peak form. Might he finally win the one major trophy that’s always eluded him?

Having endured a relatively subdued debut campaign with PSG, which led to being left off the Ballon d’Or shortlist for the first time since 2005, Messi has started the 2022-23 campaign on fire.

Regarded by many as the greatest player of all time, there’s an argument that he remains the best player in the world – and the numbers in recent months certainly make for a strong case.

“I feel good, physically,” Messi recently revealed in an interview with Star+.

“I had a good preseason this year, which I wasn’t able to do the year before [when he moved from Barcelona to PSG]. It was key to starting off better, as I did, with a lot of mental focus and eagerness.”

Messi won the Copa America last summer, which led to a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or. But some questioned whether that was his final bow at the very top of the game, having struggled to stand out in a first season after his sorrowful exit from Barcelona.

Yet he still helped PSG regain their Ligue 1 crown, registered a reasonable number of assists, and got better as the season went on, and suffering a physical impact after contracting coronavirus.

But there’s no questioning Messi this year. He scored and registered two assists in a 3-0 victory over AC Ajaccio, leaving his coach to wax lyrical about the football he’s producing.

“I say it often, but he is one of the best players in the history of football. He loves to play for others, has a great relationship with the ball and he is very selfless,” said Christoph Galtier.

“Tonight he was both very generous with his passes, especially from deep, and magnificent on the second goal. I always tell people to come to the stadium when players like him are on the field, because when they’re gone, everyone will miss them.”

Here are 12 of the most impressive statistics that underline just how good Messi is right now.

– Messi has made 17 appearances for club and country this season. He’s failed to register a goal or an assist in just three of those appearances.

– Across those 17 appearances for PSG and Argentina, the 35-year-old has notched 13 goals and 10 assists. That averages out as 1.35 direct contributions to goal for every appearance so far this season.

– No player in Europe’s top five leagues has registered more assists than Messi. He’s notched nine from 11 appearances in Ligue 1. That puts him joint-top of the assists chart alongside Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.

– Messi is the highest-rated player in Europe on WhoScored this season (8.80). He’s received more Man of the Match awards than any other player (seven of 11 appearances)

– Only his PSG team-mate Neymar (nine goals, seven assists) and Man City striker Erling Haaland (15 goals, three assists) have registered more combined goals and assists in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Messi sits third with six goals and nine assists.

– In the calendar year of 2022, only Kylian Mbappe (43), Robert Lewandowski (34) and Harry Kane (31) have more combined goals and assists in the major European leagues than Messi (30). Messi is on top in terms of assists in 2022, with 19 in Ligue 1.

– That works out as a goal or an assist every 64.4 minutes in Ligue 1 this season. That’s not far off his career-best average of a goal or assist every 51.2 minutes (2011-12).

– Messi has scored nine goals in his last three appearances for Argentina, including five goals in one game against Estonia back in June.

– No player in Europe’s major leagues has taken more shots than Messi (51) this season, and no player has registered more on target (27).

– Only four players in Europe’s big leagues – Rennes’ Benjamin Bourigeaud, Udinese’s Gerard Deulofeu, Toulouse’s Branco van den Boomen and Kevin De Bruyne – have registered more key passes (the final shot before a team-mate shoots at goal).

– Messi is also way out in front in terms of dribbles this season. He’s successfully completed 44 dribbles in Ligue 1 this season. The next-most across Europe’s major leagues is Angers’ Azzedine Ounahi, who has successfully completed 29 dribbles.

– He’s completed 55 passes into the penalty area – that’s 16 more than any player in Europe’s top five leagues.

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