Lionel Messi’s reported imminent contract extension at French side Paris Saint-Germain would keep the greatest player of all time entrenched in European football for the foreseeable future.
Rumors had been swirling prior to the 2022 World Cup that a 35-year-old Messi could leave PSG at the end of the current season when his contract expires and look to either return to Barcelona, sign with Major League Soccer club Inter Miami, or make a move to the Argentine top flight. But those were put to bed just days after he triumphed at the 2022 World Cup.
According to global football journalist Fabrizio Romano, Messi has verbally agreed to work out an extension with PSG in the coming months. Romano states that Messi had other offers, including from David Beckham’s MLS club Inter Miami, but that he wished to remain in the French capital moving forward.
Pending renewal discussions, Messi could decide to leave PSG in the coming summer. The Argentine star signed a three-year contract back in the summer of 2021, but the third year was a player option, which he could decline to make him a free agent in the summer of 2023.
Instead, early signs point to his remaining at PSG where he would continue in his quest to bring the Ligue 1 giants their first Champions League in club history, a title that PSG’s Qatari owners covet greatly. Messi himself has not won a Champions League title since 2015, but there are also a few prestigious records still available for the taking which could be enticing him to stick around just a tad longer.
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Messi can take Ronaldo’s all-time goal record
While FIFA does not keep official career goalscoring records, given the difficulty of verifying goals of players from past eras, Cristiano Ronaldo is widely considered the all-time leading goalscorer in men’s history, with a recognised 819 total goals for club and country.
Lionel Messi is right behind in second or third with 794 goals scored in his career, depending on whom you ask, and is well within reach of Ronaldo’s record as the Portuguese international winds down his career in Saudi Arabia.
Needing just 25 more goals to match Ronaldo, Messi could conceivably reach his rival’s mark this season if Ronaldo doesn’t tear it up with his new club Al Nassr. At 37 years old it is hard to imagine the Portuguese international keeping up his scoring pace for long, even playing in a lower-profile league.
Messi’s move to PSG ensures that he maintains European caliber opposition while remaining in an environment where he can continue to rack up big numbers as he progresses through the later stages of his career.
* There is much disagreement over the goal tally of Josef Bican. While FIFA released an article in 2020 stating that Bican scored 805 goals in his career, this is often disputed by some who believe many of his goals were scored at the reserve level. The Czech international federation, however, believes that Bican was shortchanged, tallying him at 821 total goals through his career, which would put him tops above Ronaldo as of today.
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Can Messi take Ronaldo’s records for international goals & appearances?
There are two other records that Cristiano Ronaldo holds that Lionel Messi would be within reach of should he continue to play at the international level.
Ronaldo is the all-time record holder for men’s international appearances and international goals, with 118 international goals in 196 senior appearances.
Following the conclusion of the World Cup, Messi has a chance at reaching both tallies if he were to continue playing for Argentina through the coming World Cup cycle. Messi currently sits at 98 goals and 172 appearances, meaning he is 20 goals and 24 appearances short.
In the 2022 calendar year, Messi made 16 international appearances (out of a total of 18 Argentina matches) and scored an incredible 18 goals. At that pace, he would need just over another calendar year of matches to reach Ronaldo.
However, much of that also rests upon whether Ronaldo continues playing for Portugal himself. He looked cooked at the World Cup, and young Goncalo Ramos seems to have snatched the striker role for now thanks to his hat-trick against Switzerland. Still, it would be tough for Portugal to push an all-time great like Ronaldo out, even at 37 years old, and if he sees Messi in the rear-view mirror, he could try to keep playing to ensure his numbers are difficult to catch.
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Messi can secure Ballon d’Or legacy
Lionel Messi already holds the record for most Ballon d’Or awards in history with seven, having won his most recent in 2021.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who has five Ballon d’Or trophies, looks miles away from coming close to winning another and therefore is not a threat to Messi’s record.
However, with Kylian Mbappe still just 23 years old and already looking like the next big superstar in the game, Messi wouldn’t throw away the chance to secure his legacy further by tacking on another award (or two) before calling time on his career.
Staying at PSG gives Messi the best chance to do just that. Not only does he remain at Mbappe’s club, hoping to top his teammate’s accolades, but he remains visible on the European club scene with PSG. Messi’s regular appearances in the Champions League, where he is still delivering at a top level, give him peak visibility and recognition as he hopes to remain in the mix for future Ballon d’Or selections.
Once Messi concedes to Mbappe, it’s hard to imagine anyone but maybe Erling Haaland challenging the French star on a regular basis for the top individual award the global game has to offer.
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Could Messi play in a sixth World Cup?
Already holding the most World Cup appearances in history, there’s a chance that Lionel Messi also has an aim of playing in a sixth World Cup, which would also be an all-time record.
While Messi has stated many times over the past few weeks that he is done with World Cup action, having triumphed in 2022, there’s still a reasonable chance that he goes back on his word and remains in contention for the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
With Messi continuing to play Champions League football, and continuing to gain matches at the elite European level, there’s always a chance that he’s able to extend his career another four years and be a part of the expanded 2026 tournament, where Argentina will look to defend their title.
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