Lionel Messi has broken another record as pundits and analysts start to sound like broken records.
Yes, he’s done it again. Argentina’s pint-sized genius has reached yet another unprecedented milestone to consolidate his status as arguably the greatest player to have ever laced up their boots.
With PSG toiling and surprisingly trailing against Champions League greenhorns Maccabi Haifa in their match-up on Wednesday night, Messi — ever the protagonist — took matters into his own hands to restore parity and wrestle back control.
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Tjaronn Chery scored a goal he’ll be telling his grandkids for years to come in the 24th minute, but soon after, a familiar face would pop up on the scoresheet in the guise of Messi, who capitalised on some neat footwork from Kylian Mbappe to bring the game level.
The ball fell kindly to Messi in the Maccabi Haifa box before he poked home, and by doing so, the ageing superstar became the first player to find the back of the net against 39 different teams in Champions League, a new record for any player.
39 – Lionel Messi has become the first player to find the net against 39 different teams in UEFA Champions League, more than any other player in the competition (38 for Cristiano Ronaldo). Globetrotter. #MACPSG #UEFAChampionsLeague2022 pic.twitter.com/fJQCVPtKqo
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 14, 2022
Messi had previously held the record with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, but with the Manchester United forward a rare absentee from UEFA’s flagship competition this season, his Ballon d’Or nemesis has stolen a march in football’s much-discussed G.O.A.T. debate.
Messi turned provider later on in Israel to show that he’s more than just an unnatural goal machine, but also one of football’s most elite playmaking forces. Ronaldo, of course, is known for his otherworldly scoring abilities, but Messi weds his prolific tendencies with a creative ingenuity that belies logic.
Collecting the ball in the half space and seemingly out of harm’s way — from a Maccabi Haifa perspective — Messi trapped the ball, shifted in uncanny fashion and timed a precision pass to Mbappe, who duly slotted home. Blink and you would have missed it.
With just three touches in a ‘safe zone’, Messi set Mbappe through on goal. It was wizardry that has defined Messi’s career. And here he produced the tangible evidence to bolster an already-ridiculous legacy.