- Lionel Messi has been at the top of his game for the 18 years since he made his professional debut
- The Argentine superstar has shared the spotlight with some of football’s biggest talent for decades
- Messi is the player with the most Ballon d’Or crowns after bagging the individual award eight times
Lionel Messi has remained at the top since he made his professional debut for Barcelona almost 20 years ago.
He featured in a La Liga game against local rivals, Espanyol way back on October 16, 2004.
The 35-year-old forward has become a household name in the football community since, surpassing the achievements of some legends of the game, including the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho.
In 2007, Messi was competing with the likes of Kaka for the Player of the Year award, where he eventually finished second behind the Brazil icon and ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who came third.
With 41 trophies to his name, Messi is on the verge of surpassing Brazilian defender, Dani Alves as the footballer who has won the most trophies in football.
Among the most notable achievements from the Argentine veteran's career are claiming the FIFA World Cup, four UEFA Champions League titles, 10 La Liga titles, and one Copa America.
The Messi and Ronaldo rivalry
Ronaldo and Messi would go on to begin one of football’s biggest rivalries from 2008 to 2018, with both players coveting the Ballon d’Or award during that time.
The two veterans spent nine seasons in the prime of their careers facing off regularly in El Clasico ties, while playing for rivals, Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
According to Wikipedia, Messi and Ronaldo are two of the most decorated footballers in history, having won a total of 76 major trophies (42 for Messi, 34 for Ronaldo) during their senior careers.
They are the only two players to have scored over 800 goals each for club and country, while also sharing 12 Ballon d’Or awards between them (7 for Messi, 5 for Ronaldo).
Messi vs VVD vs Lewandowski
With Ronaldo off the mark, Messi gained new competitors for Europe’s top individual prize with Liverpool defender, Virgil van Dijk and Robert Lewandowski stepping up.
The Argentine won his sixth Ballon d'Or in 2019 after pipping VVD by just two votes despite the defender being named UEFA's Men's Player of the Year in August of that year, Evening Standard reports.
Lewandowski was regarded as unlucky to lose out on the 2020 Ballon d'Or award, which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Eurosport reports.
The Polish striker won the Striker of the Year award at the 2021 golden ball ceremony before finishing second for the main men's prize behind Messi.
Messi vs Mbappe era begins
Football fans will remember the final game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup for the longest time because of the showmanship of Messi and Kylian Mbappe, for Argentina and France respectively.
They both delivered outstanding performances, with the Frenchman scoring a hat-trick while the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner struck a brace, Essentially Sport reports.
After a 3-3 tie over 120 minutes, the match would go to penalties to determine the winner, with Argentina emerging victorious after two spot kick misses by Les Bleus.
Both players are expected to go head-to-head for the Ballon d’Or crown in 2023, with Messi expected to edge ahead of his Paris Saint-Germain teammate due to his World Cup success.
Messi most decorated football player?
Earlier, Sports Brief reported on PSG superstar, Messi possibly becoming the most decorated footballer of all-time ahead of Barcelona legend, Dani Alves.
The Parisians are on course to become Ligue 1 champions again this season, with a six-point lead over second-placed RC Lens in the French title race.
Messi has won 41 major trophies for his respective clubs and for Argentine, and can match Alves' tally of 42 by winning the Ligue 1 crown this season.