Lionel Messi is already (arguably) the greatest soccer player of all time, with or without a World Cup win. But a World Cup trophy would complete his already-impressive career as a professional player. He’ll get his chance at the World Cup final the Sunday, December 18 when Argentina play France.
The numbers behind the Messi magic
Games and Minutes
Messi and Lothar Matthäus have made the most World Cup appearances with 25, but Messi will break that record on Sunday, when he appears in his 26th World Cup game. Messi has captained for Argentina 18 times, more than any other player. Rafa Márquez was captain 17 times and Diego Maradona 16.
Messi needs just 24 minutes of playing time on Sunday to set the record for total minutes played at a World Cup. He currently has 2,194 and the record holder is Italian legend Paolo Maldini, with 2,217. Only six players have played in five different World Cups – Messi, Antonio Carbajal, Lothar Matthäus, Rafa Márquez, Andrés Guardado, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Goals and Assists
No player has scored more goals for Argentina at the World Cup than Lionel Messi, who now has 11 total. Messi broke Batistuta’s record of 10 World Cup goals during Argentina’s World Cup semifinal game against Croatia. Diego Maradona is in third with eight World Cup goals in his international career.
Messi is the only player to ever register an assist at five different World Cups, doing so in 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2022. He and Pelé hold the record for most assists in the knockout stages of the World Cup with six. Messi also shares the record for total goal contributions at the World Cup with 19, tied with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gerd Müller, though Messi could easily break that record and make it 20 on Sunday.
Messi has been named Player of the Match ten times, more than any other player since the award made its debut in 2002. Messi has won 16 World Cup games with Argentina, bested only by Miroslav Klose (17), but if Argentina win against France on Sunday, Messi will equal Klose’s record.
“He and soccer fans have to enjoy what they are going to see,” said former Argentina teammate Maxi Rodriguez. “What happens next, we will see. But let’s enjoy it now. We as Argentinians will want it to go the best way possible. I also think that a lot of soccer fans want Argentina to be champions because of Leo.”