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Messi beats Pele's single club goal-scoring record

December 23, 2020

It took Lionel Messi more games to meet and break the Brazilian legend's mark, but he did it in fewer seasons. Pele reached out to Messi soon after the FC Barcelona star broke his record.

Lionel Messi (r) scores the record goal
Messi has now scored 644 goals for the same club over 17 seasonsImage: Cesar Manso/AP/picture alliance

FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi surpassed Brazilian legend Pele for most goals with a single club on Tuesday.

Messi scored his 644th goal for the Catalan giants in the 65th minute against Real Valladolid. It was the last goal of the 3-0 victory. Messi got the goal thanks to a delicate backheel from Pedro Gonzalez, and finished it off in clinical style.

"I see Messi happy. He is working hard, and he is a very important part of our attacking game," said FC Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman following the match.

Messi reflected on Instagram after the game. "When I began playing, I never thought I would break any record, much less the one I have surpassed today that belonged to Pele. I only want to give my thanks to all those who have helped me all these years, my teammates, my family, my friends and those who support me every day," said the new record holder.

Lionel Messi on the ground
Lionel Messi was all smiles on TuesdayImage: Cesar Manso/AP/picture alliance

Pele reached out to Messi on Instagram soon after Messi broke his record. "Like you, I know what it's like to love wearing the same shirt every day. Like you, I know that there is nothing better than the place we feel at home," said Pele. "Congratulations on your historic record, Lionel. But above all, congratulations on your beautiful career at Barcelona. Stories like ours, of loving the same club for so long, unfortunately will be increasingly rare in football. I admire you very much."

Comparing Messi to Pele

Messi has been compared to fellow star Christiano Ronaldo for much of the past decade, especially when Ronaldo played at rival side Real Madrid. But how does the new record compare to what used to be Pele's?

The Brazilian star scored 643 career goals in 665 competitive matches with Santos FC in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Messi required 749 matches to break the record. However, Pele played 19 seasons in Brazil to reach the mark while Messi was in his 17th season in Spain. Both were teenagers when they started at their respective clubs, but Pele was two years younger at 15. Pele also has also won the top compeition in international football, the FIFA World Cup, three times. Messi played in the final match once in his career.

Messi has spent his entire senior career in the Catalan capital. While Pele spent nearly two decades in Brazil, he did not spend his entire career in Sao Paulo. He finished his career with three seasons on an American team, the New York Comsos.

Giorgio Chinaglia, Pele and Franz Beckenbauer on the New York Cosmos in 1977
Pele (c) spent the vast majority of his career with Santos FC, but ended playing alongside Italian star Giorgio Chinaglia (l) and German legend Franz Beckenbauer (r) in New YorkImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Brainpix ITS Press

While the record is just another mark in Messi's historic career, it almost did not happen. Messi had said he wanted out of Barcelona over the summer, sending the club into chaos. He begrudgingly stayed, but the club has not lived up to expectations. FC Barcelona sits in fifth place, eight points behind Atletico Madrid in La Liga after Tuesday's matches.

kbd/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters)