When it comes to Lionel Messi, you could be excused for thinking that there are no more records left to break, but the Barcelona great has just set a big one — and it was one he almost missed altogether.
With his 65th-minute strike against Real Valladolid on Dec. 22, Messi scored his 644th goal for Barca, breaking a long-standing record set by none other than the great Pele almost half a century ago. Astonishingly, Messi has scored more goals for one single club than any other player in the history of soccer.
Messi, 33, has reached the historic landmark a few months after he had tried to leave Barcelona in the summer, only to announce a week later that he would stay and honour the final season of his contract.
The record is a new highlight in his dizzying collection of records: he’s the overall top goal scorer in La Liga (451); the player with the most hat tricks in the Spanish top flight (35); the man to have scored the most goals (91) for club and country in a calendar year; the only player ever to have scored more than 50 goals or more in nine different seasons; the winner of the most Ballon d’Ors ever (six).
Here is a look at the other goal-scoring titans of the game who join Messi as the all-time top 10 goal scorers for one club, according to FIFA.
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– ESPN+ viewer’s guide: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and more
Other than Messi, Ronaldo is the only other active player in the top 10 thanks to the incredible amount of goals he scored for Real Madrid. This is despite the Portugal captain spending only a relatively brief nine seasons at the Bernabeu in comparison to the 17 Messi has under his belt at Barca. After scoring 35 goals overall in his debut season for Los Blancos (2009-10), Ronaldo never once dipped below 40 in a campaign and peaked with back-to-back 55-goal tallies in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
With his move to Juventus in 2018, Ronaldo, 35, is unlikely to gain much ground on Messi in the single-club stakes — that is unless a shock return to the Bernabeu happens before he calls time on his illustrious career. Which, given he has said in the past that he can see himself playing until he’s 40, isn’t totally out of the question.
9. Eusebio (473 goals in 440 games for Benfica)
Not many clubs cherish a player as emphatically as Benfica do when it comes to the late Eusebio, one of the all-time greats to have ever played the game. The centre-forward was instrumental in the Portuguese side’s glory years, spending 15 seasons at the Estadio da Luz between 1960 and 1975 and winning the league title on 11 occasions, as well as a European Cup final victory over Real Madrid in 1962. During that time, Eusebio also won the European Golden Shoe as the continent’s leading goal scorer on two occasions, the first being the award’s inaugural presentation in 1968.
8. Uwe Seeler (507 goals in 587 games for Hamburg)
One of the true German greats and a one-club man, Seeler spent his entire 18-year career at Hamburg after coming through the youth ranks. His first-team debut at the age of 18, in which he scored four goals in an 8-2 victory over Holstein Kiel in 1954, set the stage for what was to come. While the first 10 years of his career predate the formation of the Bundesliga, Seeler is still one of the league’s top 20 goal scorers of all time after netting 137 times in 239 games following the league’s inception in 1963.
7. Jimmy Jones (517 goals in 419 games for Glenavon)
— Glenavon FC (@Glenavon_FC) April 13, 2020
Over the course of 11 seasons at Glenavon in Northern Ireland, Jones set the record for most goals scored in a single competitive season. He scored a phenomenal 74 goals during the Lurgan Blues’ championship-winning 1956-57 Irish League campaign — a record that still stands to this day. Messi came close to equalling Jones’ haul in 2011-12 but alas the Barcelona star fell one goal short after finishing the season with 73 goals to his name.
6. Jimmy McGrory (522 goals in 501 games for Celtic)
McGrory spent 15 years at Celtic as a player between 1922 and 1937 before returning to manage the Scottish club after the Second World War, a post in which he remained for almost two decades. A diminutive striker who still became famed and feared for his aerial prowess, McGrory peaked with a run of 143 league and cup goals in 152 games over the course of five seasons between 1925 and 1930. This led to interest from Arsenal but, despite the London club making a then-world record transfer bid of £10,000, McGrory turned them down and remained in Glasgow.
5. Josef Bican (534 goals in 274 games for Slavia Prague)
⭐ Josef Bican was born 107 years ago!
Bican played for Slavia between 1937 and 1948 and returned to red and white in 1953 for four more years. He scored close to 1,500 goals in total during his playing days! #slaviaprague pic.twitter.com/BykdodVpY9
— SK Slavia Prague EN (@slavia_eng) September 25, 2020
Bican is not only one of the greatest goal scorers to have ever graced the game, but he is also one of a very small group of footballers to have played international football for three different countries after the Vienna-born striker won caps for Austria, Czechoslovakia and Bohemia & Moravia. Unsurprisingly, the player known as “Pepi” is Slavia’s all-time leading goal scorer after achieving a frankly ludicrous average strike rate of 1.95 goals per game during his eight seasons with the Czech side, even scoring seven goals in one match on three separate occasions.
4. Fernando Peyroteo (544 goals in 334 games for Sporting Lisbon)
Peyroteo spent his entire career at Sporting, joining them as a teenager in 1937 and leaving in 1949 upon his retirement from the sport at the age of 31. The powerful striker finished every single one of his 12 seasons at Sporting with more goals than appearances. He also scored more than 40 goals in a single season twice, on both occasions in the final three years of his time with the Portuguese giants. No wonder the club still call him “un maquina de hacer goles” — a goal machine.
3. Gerd Muller (564 goals in 605 games for Bayern Munich)
Originally told he looked too much like a “weightlifter” to play professional football, German legend Muller made a habit of confounding the naysayers by scoring 735 goals for club and country over the course of his career from 1963 to 1981. Fiendishly prolific, Muller averaged at least a goal per game in most of the 14 seasons he spent at Bayern, notably setting the record for most goals in a calendar year (85) in 1972, a record that stood for 40 years before being broken in 2012 by (surprise, surprise) Lionel Messi.
2. Pele (643 goals in 659 games for Santos)
The iconic Brazil striker first signed for Santos in 1956 at the age of 15 and remained loyal to the Alvinegro until 1974, averaging almost a goal a game throughout his 19-season stint. During the period he also became the first (and remains the only) player, male or female, to win three World Cups. By the age of 16, Pele had already finished the season as top goal scorer in the Brazilian championship and the goals just kept coming. O Rei eventually left Santos to sign for New York Cosmos at the age of 33, the same age that Messi is now.
1. Lionel Messi (644 goals in 749 games for Barcelona)
The 2020-21 season is Messi’s 17th senior campaign at the Camp Nou since he made his senior first-team debut under Pep Guardiola all those years ago. The first goal came on May 1, 2005, when the long-haired Argentine teenager came off the bench in the 88th minute to score in Barca’s 2-0 win over Albacete. Messi opened his account with a classy lob over the goalkeeper from close range after Ronaldinho had scooped the ball over the defence to his young protege, just moments after the two combined for a very similar goal that was ruled out for offside. Since then he has been going from strength to strength, scoring goals in Champions League finals, hat tricks in Clasicos, regularly breaching the 50-goal mark in a season and all while having the gall to make it look easy.