Messi breaks Pele’s South America goals record

Lionel Messi has scored his 79th international career goal for Argentina, surpassing the South American men’s record held by Brazil legend Pele.

Messi scored a hat trick against Bolivia on Thursday in a World Cup qualifying match at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, giving him two more over Pele, who had 77 career goals in international play.

Messi trails Brazilian duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) for the overall record for most goals scored by any South American player at the international level.

Third on the men’s list is Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, who has 68 international goals for Brazil.

With 25 goals in World Cup qualifying matches, Messi ties former Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez for most all-time among CONMEBOL players. With seven career goals vs. Bolivia in 11 games, it is Messi’s most goals against a single opponent for Argentina.

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Messi is also his country’s all-time leading scorer, having moved past Gabriel Batistuta (54 goals) in 2016. He is also Argentina’s most capped player, with Wednesday’s match against Bolivia marking his 153nd international appearance.

Messi, 34, won his first senior international football title this summer at the 2021 Copa America in a 1-0 win over Brazil.

Prior to that win at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Messi had lost four major finals with Argentina’s senior side. They were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and had lost in the final at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016.

He had won the Under-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina’s U23s in 2008.

Messi joined PSG over the summer on a shock free-agent move after two decades with Barcelona. Messi had been with Barcelona since 2001, joining the academy the year before.

Messi played 778 games at Barcelona, breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record in the 2020-21 season. In addition, he has scored 672 goals, another club record, and helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

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