Paris Saint-Germain maintained their unbeaten start to the 2022-23 Champions League group stage thanks to a 1-1 draw against Benfica on Wednesday night — a night on which Lionel Messi wrote his name into the competition record books once again.
The Argentine maestro opened the scoring at the Estadio da Luz with a beautiful curling effort that saw him become the first player to score against 40 different teams in the Champions League.
Messi latched on to a Neymar assist to bend an exquisite first-time effort past Benfica keeper Odysseas Vlachodimos from 20 yards to score from outside the area for the 12th time in his Champions League career. Peerless as ever, no player has found the net from range more often in the last decade.
As if his talent was ever in doubt, the 35-year-old is on a six-game scoring streak for club and country that represents his best run of form in front of goal since the 2018-19 season. He is back to his best and, with 127 goals in the Champions League to his credit, he’s also within touching distance of Cristiano Ronaldo’s competition record of 141 goals.
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Benfica became the 40th club added to Messi’s long list of vanquished Champions League opponents — less than a month after Israeli side Maccabi Haifa became the 39th when he netted against them in a 3-1 victory in mid-September. That goal saw Messi overtake perennial sparring partner Ronaldo, with the Portuguese having scored against 38 different clubs in the Champions League as things stand.
Top scorers in Champions League vs. different clubs
1. Lionel Messi: 40 clubs
2. Cristiano Ronaldo: 38 clubs
3. Karim Benzema: 34 clubs
4. Raul Gonzalez: 33 clubs
5. Robert Lewandowski: 31 clubs
6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 29 clubs
7. Thomas Muller: 29 clubs
8. Ruud van Nistelrooy: 25 clubs
9. Thierry Henry: 24 clubs
10. Sergio Aguero: 24 clubs
Since the UEFA Champions League was inaugurated as a competition in 1992-93, 100 different clubs from across Europe have taken part and Messi has now scored against 40% of them.
No club has felt his wrath quite like Arsenal, who have conceded more goals to him than any other team. He has nine goals in six games against the Gunners in Europe — including four in one match in 2010 — a prolific single-opponent spree that consists of a goal every 59 minutes, 40 seconds.
Bayer Leverkusen have taken the biggest single-game hit so far, when Messi rattled five goals in one match against the bewildered Germans to inspire Barcelona to a comprehensive 7-1 win in March 2012.
Arsenal: 9 goals in 6 games (537 minutes in total)
Celtic: 8 goals in 6 games (488 mins)
AC Milan: 8 goals in 8 games (720 mins)
Bayer Leverkusen: 7 goals in 3 games (270 mins)
Manchester City: 7 goals in 8 games (720 mins)
Ajax: 6 goals in 3 games (247 mins)
Paris Saint-Germain: 6 goals in 10 games (794 mins)
Lyon: 5 goals in 6 games (538 mins)
Bayern Munich: 4 goals in 6 games (540 mins)
Manchester United: 4 goals in 6 games (512 mins)
Messi has only ever scored one Champions League goal against Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Monchengladbach, Ferencvaros, Maccabi Haifa, Napoli, Olympiakos, Rangers, Slavia Prague, Sporting CP, Werder Bremen and Benfica, the latest addition to his hitlist.
He has faced a total of 44 different clubs from 19 different countries in Europe’s elite competition and so far has only failed to score against four of them: Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Rubin Kazan and Udinese.
With Atletico and Inter both taking part in this year’s competition, it is perfectly plausible that he could extend his incredible Champions League record even further before the end of the 2022-23 season.