Lionel Messi marked the milestone 1,000th game of his career by inspiring Argentina to a knockout victory over Australia to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
It was a fitting stage for Messi, who had remarkably waited until now to score the first World Cup knockout goal of his career. He had netted only in the group stage in 2006, 2014 and 2018 before now – bizarrely not at all in 2010 – and added two more his group stage tally in Qatar.
Australia was a potential banana skin for Argentina, one that they needed to be very mindful of after already stumbling against Saudi Arabia in their opening game.
It took La Albiceleste more than half an hour to crack the resilient Socceroos, with Messi popping up with a typical Messi finish as he stroked the ball low into the far bottom corner with his left foot.
In his 1,000th game, it was the 789th goal of his career.
Of those 1,000 games, 778 were for Barcelona, the club he joined aged 13 and spent 20 years until financial strife in the Camp Nou offices forced him out last year. Another 53 since have been for Paris Saint-Germain, where he now insists he is very happy after taking a season to settle. And 169 have now come for Argentina, with whom he became an international player in 2005.
Messi’s entire career has been about writing history. Very few players ever reach 1,000 senior games for club and country and he has achieved it by the age of 35 – counting 22 appearances for Barcelona’s B and C teams, which were teams playing in senior leagues if youth oriented themselves – he would have surpassed the 1,000 mark some time ago.
Incredibly, Messi has hardly ever been injured. Since 2006, he has never played fewer than 26 game in a league season and played at least 31 league games in 13 successive seasons from 2008 until 2021. He would regularly go over 50 games every season with Barcelona at his absolute peak.
Messi has already said that this will be his last World Cup – he will be 39 by the time the 2026 finals in North America are due to begin – but it would be a fitting way to write the final chapter of his international career if his 1,003rd appearance finished with a World Cup trophy.
Harry Symeou hosts Andy Headspeath, Toby Cudworth & La Liga TV presenter Semra Hunter to look back on the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa - join us! If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!