Lionel Messi: A breakdown of his World Cup and career highlights

After inspiring Argentina to a historic World Cup victory in Qatar, we look back at his illustrious career.

Lionel Messi holds the World Cup aloft after his side's victory over France | Argentina v France
GOAT? [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Lionel Messi has finally won the World Cup.

The forward has delighted football fans for more than 18 years with his scintillating, elegant brand of football, picking up more than 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues along the way.

Here’s a look back at the Argentinian’s performance at World Cup 2022 and his career before it.

Messi’s 2022 World Cup: From disaster to triumph

Eight years ago, Messi came close to the World Cup, dragging his team to the final in Brazil, only to lose to Germany in extra time.

messi 2014
Messi reached the final of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil [Damir Sagolj/Reuters]

At the start of this World Cup, it looked like another trophyless campaign was on the cards when Saudi Arabia fought back from a Messi opener to beat the South Americans 2-1 in the first of many tournament upsets.

From then on, Argentina grew in confidence, with Messi emerging unsurprisingly as their key player. The veteran forward rolled back the years and was in unstoppable form with seven goals in the tournament – one less than French striker Kylian Mbappe, who won the Golden Boot award.

Lionel Messi holds the World Cup aloft after his side's victory over France | Argentina v France
Eight years after tasting defeat in a World Cup final, Messi leads his team to victory in Qatar [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

In the final, he was once again instrumental in his side’s triumph, scoring twice and netting a penalty in the shootout.

The 35-year-old Argentinian also tops the assists charts with three to sit alongside Harry Kane (England), Antoine Griezmann (France) and Bruno Fernandes (Portugal).

How did Messi compare to the other World Cup stars?

For many, the question – who is the greatest player of all time, Messi or his longtime rival and five-time Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo – has finally been decided.

The Portuguese superstar, who has never won the tournament, was benched for his team’s games against Switzerland and Morocco after scoring in a fifth straight World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo sat on the bench for a lot of his country’s World Cup campaign [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

It was an anti-climatic exit for the 37-year-old, who has almost certainly played his last World Cup football.

There were high expectations for Messi’s Paris St Germain teammate Neymar. The forward dazzled at times, scoring two goals but was also plagued by injuries at the start of the tournament and ultimately, Brazil could not do enough to beat a disciplined Croatian side and exited at the quarterfinal stage.

Brazil's forward #10 Neymar reacts after his team lost the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final football match between Croatia and Brazil at Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha, on December 9, 2022. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)
Neymar and his Brazil side won three and lost two matches at the 2022 World Cup [Adrian Dennis/AFP]

Kylian Mbappe, another PSG superstar, enjoyed an excellent tournament in which he finished as the leading goalscorer. The French player scored a hat-trick in the final, topping the list with eight goals.

What are the highlights of Messi’s Argentina career?

Messi made his international debut in 2005 after winning the FIFA World Youth Championship that year. At the 2006 World Cup, he became the youngest Argentinian player to play and score.

Since then, he has joined his compatriot Diego Maradona as a footballing icon both at home and abroad.

  • International caps: 172
  • International goals: 98
  • World Cup appearances: 5
  • World Cup matches played: 26 (He is now the player with the most World Cup appearances)
  • World Cup goals: 13 (a record for Argentina)
  • World Cup finals: 2 (2014, 2022)
  • World Cup 2022 goals: 7
  • World Cup 2022 assists: 3 (Messi is the only player to register an assist in five World Cups)
  • World Cup 2022 Man of the Match awards: 5 (11 overall in World Cups, more than any other player)
  • Other International honours: Copa America (2021), CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions (2022), Summer Olympics (2008), FIFA World Youth Championship (2005)

What individual honours has Messi won?

  • Ballon d’Or: 7
  • World Cup Golden Ball award: 2
  • FIFA World Player of the Year: 1
  • The Best FIFA Men’s Player: 1
  • European Golden Shoe: 6
  • FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball: 2
  • Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: 1
  • Argentina’s Footballer of the Year: 14

What has Messi achieved at club level?

Messi joined Barcelona’s youth academy when he was 13 and spent much of his professional career at the Catalan club.

He is Barcelona’s top scorer and has made the most appearances for the club, with 672 goals in 778 games in all competitions.

Messi won 35 trophies at Barcelona, including 10 La Liga titles, four Champions League trophies, three UEFA Super Cups, seven Copa del Rey crowns, and three FIFA Club World Cups.

In 2021, Messi moved to the French club PSG, where he scored 23 goals and recorded 29 assists in 53 appearances. He won the Ligue 1 title with the club in the 2021-22 season and the French Super Cup in July 2022.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies