36 things you might not have known about Lionel Messi for his 36th birthday

36 things you might not have known about Lionel Messi for his 36th birthday

Inter Miami-bound Lionel Messi turned 36 on Saturday and to help him celebrate The Athletic has compiled 36 different stats, facts and pieces of trivia about one of the greatest footballers of all time.

How many hat-tricks has the Argentinian scored? Has he ever been sent off? How many trophies has he picked up during his glittering career?

We have got all that and more covered right here…

1) Messi scored 672 goals for Barcelona — more than anyone has ever scored for a single club. The previous record had been held by Pele who scored 643 times for Brazilian side Santos from 1956 to 1974. Like Messi, Pele moved to the U.S. in his mid-30s (he joined the New York Cosmos).

2) Messi has scored 807 goals in his career so far (672 for Barca, 32 for Paris Saint-Germain and 103 for Argentina). The breakdown of those goals by body part is left foot: 676, right foot: 103, head: 26, chest: 1 and hand: 1. His very own ‘Hand of God’ goal came against Espanyol in June 2007. 

3) Messi scored 91 times for club and country in 2012, which is the most goals ever scored in a calendar year by a top-level player. He surpassed German great Gerd Muller’s total of 85 from 1972.

4) Messi has scored more goals in Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues than anyone else in history. His goal for Paris Saint-Germain against Strasbourg last month was the 496th league goal of his career and pushed him past Cristiano Ronaldo’s 495. 

5) Messi has won the Ballon d’Or a record seven times — two more than any other player. He was voted the world’s best in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021 and, after his exploits at the World Cup last winter, few would bet against that number becoming eight.

6) Speaking of the World Cup, Messi is the only player to win the Golden Ball (awarded to the tournament’s best player) twice. He did so in 2014 in Brazil when Argentina lost in the final and then again last year in Qatar when he finally achieved his lifetime ambition of winning the competition. 

7) Messi has scored 50 goals or more in a season for his club on six occasions. His highest total is the 73 he netted for Barcelona in 2011-12. Despite this, his team failed to win either La Liga or the Champions League in that campaign (but they did win the Copa del Rey and the Club World Cup).

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8) Miami’s newest resident scored more goals for Barcelona (672) than the number of votes George W. Bush beat Al Gore by in Florida in the 2000 Presidential election (537). 

9) Messi moved across the world from Argentina to Barcelona to join the Spanish club’s famed La Masia academy when he was just 13 years old. He made his competitive first-team debut in 2004 and won 35 trophies before leaving in 2021

10) Messi has scored 103 goals for Argentina — which makes him one of just three men to score a century of international goals. The two others are Ronaldo for Portugal (123) and Ali Daei for Iran (109).

11) At the 2022 World Cup, the Argentina captain scored in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final to become the first player since the tournament introduced the last-16 stage (1986) to score in every round in a single edition of the competition.

12) Messi has scored eight hat-tricks in the Champions League — more than Raul, Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Muller, David Trezeguet, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Costa, Hernan Crespo, Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Morata, Antoine Griezmann, Nicolas Anelka, Leroy Sane, Ciro Immobile, Fernando Torres, Christian Vieri and Diego Forlan combined.

13) As a 10-year-old, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency which prompted fears he would not be tall enough to make it as a footballer. However, aged 14 and while in Barcelona’s academy, he underwent growth hormone treatment and eventually reached a height of 5ft 7in (170cm).

14) That height makes him two inches (five centimetres) shorter than the average American man and nearly two feet shorter than former Miami Heat center Manute Bol (7ft 6in).

15) Messi is one of a handful of players to win the treble twice. He won La Liga, the Spanish Cup and the Champions League in the 2008-09 season with Barcelona and then did so again in the 2014-15 season. He scored 38 goals in the first of those campaigns and then 58 in the second.

16) Messi has won an Olympic gold medal. The Argentinian helped his country win the men’s football tournament in Beijing in 2008 by scoring two goals and started in the final as the South Americans beat Nigeria 1-0. Angel Di Maria, who along with Messi scored in the 2022 World Cup final, netted the only goal of the game. 

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17) In total Messi has scored 57 hat-tricks during his career, 48 for Barcelona and nine for Argentina. His first came as a 19-year-old against Real Madrid in a 3-3 draw in La Liga in March 2007.

18) Messi accounts for 7.2 per cent of all the goals scored in Barcelona’s entire history (672 out of 9,322). The club has existed for 124 years and the Argentinian only played for them for 17 of those. 

19) Despite scoring 807 goals in his career Messi has never found the net in the first minute of a match (the graph below excludes the two goals scored in extra time).

20) Messi was sent off on his debut for Argentina. In August 2005, as an 18-year-old, he was shown a red card two minutes after coming off the bench against Hungary for elbowing Vilmos Vanczak. In total he has been dismissed three times in his career (once for Barcelona and twice for Argentina).

21) In his club career Messi has won 38 trophies (35 at Barcelona and three at Paris Saint-Germain). This works out as a trophy for every 22 games played on average.

22) The most goals Messi has scored in a game is five. He has done this twice — for Barcelona against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League in March 2012 and for Argentina against Estonia in a friendly in June 2022. 

23) The victory over France in the final last December was the 26th match Messi has played at the World Cup, surpassing Lothar Matthaus’ record of 25 for West Germany and Germany.

24) Messi playing in Qatar meant he had featured at five World Cups — a record shared with Mexican trio Antonio Carbajal, Rafael Marquez and Andres Guardado, Matthaus and Portugal’s Ronaldo. 

25) Messi’s first game for Inter Miami will be his 14th competitive match in the United States of America. All of the previous 13 have been for Argentina, most famously the 2016 Copa America final where his team lost to Chile on penalties in New Jersey. Messi missed his spot kick.

26) The Argentinian has scored against 37 different countries during his international career. The nation he has found the net against the most often is Bolivia with eight. 

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27) Messi has played 175 times for Argentina which is both a national record and a South American one. He is joint 10th on the list of most international appearances by male players.

28) The club he has scored against most often during his career are Spanish side Sevilla with 38. 

29) Messi hasn’t always worn the famous No 10 shirt for his country. He has played in both the No 18 and No 19 jersey for Argentina. His last international appearance not wearing No 10 was a friendly against France in February 2009 as No 18.

30) Messi has scored 27 goals against English clubs in the Champions League — seven more than any other player. The English side he has scored against the most is Arsenal with nine. 

31) He has scored 62 free-kicks during his career (50 for Barcelona, two for PSG and 10 for Argentina).

32) Nobody has played more games at Copa America (South American national championship) than Messi. His 34 appearances over six tournaments is matched only by Sergio Livingstone, who was the Chilean goalkeeper in the 1940s and 1950s.

33) Messi almost outscored English club Sunderland in the 2010s. The team from the North East spent eight seasons in the Premier League during the decade before suffering back-to-back relegations.

34) The most number of club games Messi has scored in consecutively is 10, achieved in the 2012-13 season when he was 25 years old.

35) The most number of consecutive club games Messi has gone without scoring is 12 in the 2006-07 season at the age of 19. He broke that barren run in spectacular style by scoring a hat-trick against Real Madrid.

36) Messi has the most liked Instagram post ever, with his celebratory photo after winning the 2022 World Cup getting over 75.6 million likes to date. It has 15 million more likes than the second most popular Instagram post, which is a photo of an egg. 

(Photo: Gustavo Pagano/Getty Images)

  • June 24, 2023