With an astonishing 791 goals for club and country, 41 team trophies and a record seven Ballon d’Ors to his name, Lionel Messi has already secured his status as a true footballing great.
But on Sunday, only one thing matters to the legendary Argentine star: winning the World Cup.
The 35-year-old will lead his team tonight in the hope of lifting the trophy that has so far been hinted at – and the biggest of them all.
A victory would fill a hole in his already exhaustive trophy cabinet and simultaneously end a 36-year injury spell for Argentina, who last won the tournament in 1986 thanks to fellow Albiceleste legend Diego Maradona.
For many, a World Cup victory would also cement Messi’s status as the greatest footballer to ever grace the planet after years of debate between his fans and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But first he will have to guide his team past defending champions France, who will look to write their own history at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium on Sunday, becoming only the third team to win back-to-back World Cup trophies.
Ahead of tonight’s clash, which Messi says is likely to be his last World Cup appearance, Sky News here takes a look at the Argentine superstar’s sensational career, in numbers.
1987 – A star is born
Born to a father who was a steelworks manager and a mother who worked in a magnet workshop, Messi grew up in a football-loving family in the central Argentinian town of Rosario, northwest of Buenos Aires. .
As a child, he constantly played football with his older brothers Rodrigo and Matias, as well as his cousins Maximiliano and Emanuel Biancucchi, both of whom became professional footballers.
He started playing in a team at the age of four, before joining local club Newell’s Old Boys at the age of six, where he showed his goalscoring prowess with almost 500 goals in a team of young dubbed “The Machine of ’87”.
But it was later discovered that a young Messi suffered from growth hormone deficiency, a condition that threatened his future career.
His father initially used his own health insurance to cover the $1,000-a-month treatment, which involved Messi injecting hormones into his legs every night.
After the insurance cover for the treatment ended, Messi’s father asked Newell to contribute.
However, the club, partly due to the difficult economic situation in the country at the time, refused to fully fund the treatment.
13 – Age Messi signed for Barcelona
Messi’s father looked further afield, to Spain, for a club he hoped would help fund his son’s hormone treatment, leading to a trial with Barcelona.
After initial hesitation from the La Liga side, the club’s first-team manager Charly Rexach, with no papers to hand, offered Messi’s family a contract on a napkin.
Messi would complete his growth hormone treatment at the age of 14 and then, after approval by the Spanish football federation, would join Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy.
He became part of Barcelona’s biggest youth team, scoring 36 goals in 30 games and helping guide his side to an unprecedented league and cup treble.
17 – Messi’s professional debut
After dominating in the youth leagues, Messi, a small 5ft 7in forward with a low center of balance, excellent ball control and a brilliant left foot, made his first-team debut at the age of 16 years old in a friendly match.
His first professional debut came at the age of 17 years and three months, Barcelona’s youngest ever player, in a game against Espanyol in October 2004.
That season he played 244 minutes in nine appearances, scoring his first goal against Albacete in May 2005.
In August of the same year, he made his debut for Argentina, in a 2-1 victory over Hungary.
791 – Messi’s total competitive goals *so far
Out of 1,002 professional games for club and country, Messi has a staggering return of 791 goals.
Although there is much debate, due to a lack of official records and whether to include goals scored in friendly matches, according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, Messi is only behind rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the all-time goalscoring rankings. .
But he has 350 assists to his name – 116 more than Ronaldo – and has played 143 fewer games.
Messi holds a number of goalscoring records, including being Barcelona’s all-time top scorer (627) and Argentina (96).
Argentina in the World Cup final: Lionel Messi’s side beat Croatia 3-0
World Cup in Qatar: Argentinian fans celebrate semi-final goals
He also holds the world record for most goals (71) in a single season, beating legendary German striker Gerd Muller’s previous record of 67.
Messi has 11 World Cup goals so far in his career, across five tournaments, and is the only player in history to score a World Cup goal as a teenager, twenties and thirties.
41 – The number of trophies won by Messi *so far
With 40 club and international trophies to his name, a World Cup victory would bring Messi one step closer to the title of most decorated footballer in history, currently held by his former teammate, Brazilian right-back Dani Alves (42).
In two decades with Barcelona, Messi has won 10 La Liga titles, seven Champions League trophies and 15 domestic cups.
He has also won the Club World Cup and the European Super Cup three times each.
For Argentina, he has won almost every major international competition with the World Cup being the only one to elude him so far, including the Copa America, the Finalissima and an Olympic gold medal.
He has a Ligue 1 title with his current club, Paris Saint-Germain.
49 – The number of individual honors won by Messi *so far
As well as club and international honours, Messi also has a mass of individual accolades, including a record seven Ballon d’Or trophies, the latest in 2021.
He also has nine La Liga Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards and the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball – a tournament in which his Argentina side lost in the final to Germany.
Messi also has six European Golden Boot awards and an MVP trophy for the 2021 Copa America, in which he was instrumental in guiding Argentina to success.
Three – Messi’s children
Off the pitch, Messi has three children, Thiago, born in 2012, Mateo, born in 2015, and Ciro, born in 2018, with his wife Antonella Roccuzzo.
The couple have been together since they were 20 years old.
Like Messi, Roccuzzo hails from the Argentinian town of Rosario, where they tied the knot in 2017.