On Nov. 22, 2014, a global soccer star began to cement his legacy. Known today as one of the greatest soccer players in history, Lionel Messi’s long and illustrious playing career has been replete with feats of greatness and smashed records, including the all-time mark for most goals scored in the history of Spanish soccer, which he set this week in sports history.
Messi was a prodigious soccer star from the beginning, making his debut with Barcelona in 2004 at the age of 17. He immediately became a cornerstone of the team, earning the nickname “La Pulga Atomica” or The Atomic Flea, for his prolific scoring and playmaking ability despite his small stature due to a growth hormone deficiency.
Messi led Barcelona to achieve the first “treble” in Spanish soccer history during the 2008-09 season, as they won La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the UEFA Champions League in the same year.
Barcelona, again with Messi at the helm, won their second treble during their historic 2014-15 campaign in which Messi set the record for most goals scored in La Liga history, which he holds to this day.
It was a routine league game versus Sevilla in which Messi took first place on the scorer’s list. Barcelona was of course a powerhouse at the top of the table, in an exceptionally good year. Sevilla hovered around fourth or fifth all year, certainly not an easy opponent.
However, in this contest, Barcelona made Sevilla look foolish in a 5-1 victory, including a hat trick from Messi, who tied the previous record holder Telmo Zarra with his 251st goal, eclipsed him with his 252nd, and added a 253rd for good measure.
Messi, by the end of his La Liga career in 2021, had recorded 36 hat tricks, a godly feat. This number was only ever questioned because of career rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s similar history of greatness, including 34 of his own hat tricks in 163 fewer matches. These two lead the pack in most every La Liga record, with the third place finisher far behind them.
Messi and Ronaldo played for rival teams in La Liga, debatably the two most successful in league history, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Constantly going head-to-head and chasing each other’s records certainly makes the clash between these two one of the most exciting individual rivalries in sports history. While Messi still solidly holds the all-time goals lead with 474, Ronaldo scored his 311 goals in only 292 matches, making him the only player in the top 10, and certainly beyond, to score goals at the herculean pace of more than one goal per game.
Unfortunately for the strength of this individual feud, neither star plays in Spain anymore. Ronaldo left Real Madrid in 2018, and is currently playing for England’s Manchester United, where he is mired in controversy regarding his off-field behavior.
Meanwhile, Messi is lighting it up in France’s Ligue 1 with historic club Paris Saint-Germain, and on the international level with Argentina. With the World Cup around the corner, “La Pulga Atomica” is certainly looking to continue making his own legend as the greatest soccer player of all time.