Lionel Messi reached the latest major milestone of his storied career on Thursday as he moved on to 800 goals with a stunning free-kick to seal Argentina’s 2-0 friendly win against Panama on Thursday.
The reigning World Cup champions returned to Buenos Aires where they received a thunderous reception from their loyal supporters.
But they would have to wait until the final moments for their favourite son to get on the scoresheet.
Messi had hit the crossbar with a free-kick in the first half.
And after a second set-piece was saved by inspired Panama goalkeeper Jose Guerra, he struck the woodwork again with a third, although this one led to the opening goal as Thiago Almada tapped in the rebound.
But his fourth finally curled under the bar and into the top-right corner, sending the stadium into raptures.
👉 ¡G⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽⚽L! Lionel #Messi convierte el segundo tanto argentino.
⏱ 43′ ST
⚽ @Argentina 🇦🇷 2 🆚 #Panamá 🇵🇦 0
— 🇦🇷 Selección Argentina ⭐⭐⭐ (@Argentina) March 24, 2023
Of course, it was not so long ago that Messi hit another goals landmark.
His tap-in from Kylian Mbappe’s inch-perfect cross against Marseille on February 26 was the 700th club goal of Messi’s career – the strike against Panama was only his second for club or country since then.
Messi’s stunner at El Monumental on Thursday was his 99th on the international stage.
Only his old nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo (120) and Iran legend Ali Daei (109) have scored more goals in international men’s football than Messi, who looks set to continue playing for Argentina for a little while yet.
As such, his 100th goal for the Albiceleste is seemingly just around the corner.
That same season he also started playing for Barça C and Barça B, making 37 official appearances and scoring 35 goals. He also won the league with the U18B team and played for the 🇦🇷 U20 national team👏 pic.twitter.com/h7ZK7edF6W
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) June 24, 2020
But much like with that international milestone, Messi is not the first player to reach 800 across a full career.
Data can get a little murkier when you go deep into the past, with historical inconsistencies making it a little tricky to classify “official goals” or “official competitions”.
The likes of Brazilian greats Romario and Pele are among a group of players deemed by some to have scored over 1,000 goals over their careers, but many of those were netted in friendlies or “unofficial” games.
The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) considered Cristiano Ronaldo to be the first player to ever reach 800 official goals in December 2021.
With that in mind, Thursday’s goal makes Messi the second to reach the landmark and he is still going strong.
He has scored 18 for the season in all competitions with PSG, though he also netted seven in as many games at Qatar 2022 as Argentina won the World Cup.
Of course, the vast majority of his 800 goals have been scored in the colours of Barcelona.
During 17 years with Barca’s first team, Messi scored 672 times. That is 440 more than any other player in the club’s history, while he also holds their record for most appearances (778).
And with his future at PSG in doubt, he could yet extend those records at Camp Nou.