There are few milestones left for Lionel Messi left to hit, such are his goalscoring numbers.
But with Barcelona’s third against Real Valladolid, Messi’s 644th goal for Barca, he surpassed Pele’s legendary Santos record of the most goals for a single club. Savour these moments, there might not be many more.
Argentina’s top scorer, La Liga’s top scorer, Barcelona’s top scorer – he’s now so far out in front for all three that breaking each record is now a great distance back in the rearview mirror.
Even though Messi has scored well over 700 goals for club and country, there’s still plenty of joy to be found in the new ones. And the real joy from his latest came not from his finish, but the backheel assist from rising star Pedri.
Having arrived from Las Palmas in the summer, the much-hyped youngster’s been thrown straight in by Ronald Koeman, making his Barcelona debut at the age of 17 – the same age Messi was when he made his first competitive appearance back in October 2004.
Messi scored his first goal in May 2005, 55 days before he turned 18, becoming La Blaugrana’s all-time youngest goalscorer in the process. Pedri’s first Barcelona goal, against Ferencvaros in the Champions League, was 28 days before his 18th birthday.
The first of hundreds more to come, Messi’s maiden goal has since been replayed over and over. An impudent chipped effort, he was in fact repeating the trick after seeing one ruled out for a questionable offside call. For both attempts, he’d been played in after a scooped through ball from Ronaldinho.
The celebration, jubilantly punching the air after leaping on the Brazilian’s back, has since become iconic in the context of the career to come.
Ronaldinho was at the peak of his powers then, winning the Ballon d’Or later that year and helping to deliver the Champions League the following season.
He was only 25 at the time, eight years younger than Messi is now, yet you can’t help but see parallels when the newest, brightest talents at Barcelona start clicking with the club’s current undisputed superstar.
It would have been unthinkable in 2005, but Messi is even more totemic to this side than even the great Ronaldinho was back then.
With a career that’s spanned over 15 years, with over a decade over that at the very top of the game, there’s something wonderful about the range of players that have come and gone alongside him.
Given Ronaldinho’s status, such brilliant contributions almost felt routine. But Messi’s latest was provided by a teenager, who still has the ability to surprise us.
Receiving the ball just outside the box, it’s stunning work to take just two touches, pausing with the first to allow the move to catch up with what he’s planning, before a brilliant backheel to set the Argentine through on goal.
And you just knew the most devastating goalscorer in football history wasn’t going to miss.
Lionel Messi makes HISTORY! 🚨
Goal No. 644 sees him overtake Pele 🙌
"Nobody in the history of this wonderful game has ever scored as many goals for the same club as Lionel Messi." 🗣 pic.twitter.com/jXiXB1aQvI
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) December 22, 2020
It would be far too trite to suggest this was a passing of a baton from a superstar coming towards the end of his career and a wonderkid on his way up.
But Messi made it abundantly clear in the summer that Barcelona need to start thinking about the future, and Pedri’s emergence will provide some relief and optimism that there is talent breaking through at the Camp Nou.
As Messi shows and Pedri may soon discover, when you’re brushed with magic at an early stage, anything is possible.