Talking Soccer: Messi reaches another milestone

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, duels for the ball against Sevilla's Guido Pizarro during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Barcelona legend Lionel Messi reached another milestone for his club against Sevilla on Sunday. Messi didn’t score in the 2-1 victory for Barcelona, who lead the Spanish League with 31 points, but he appeared in his 600th game for the Catalan club.

600 games with the same team – this puts Messi as the player with the third-most games in Barcelona history. Messi reaching this number speaks volumes about him as a player.

Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona’s coach, threw compliments to his star player after the game.

"You run out of adjectives to describe his journey. It shows his importance to this club. It's not just the 600 games - it's how he's played in those 600 games which show what Messi means,” Valverde said.

Every summer there’s a rumor about potential buyers who will pay the astronomical buyout clause for Messi, arguably the best player in the world. Still, Messi keeps signing extensions with Barcelona and has said over the years he will never leave the club that gave him everything.

Born with a growth deficiency, Messi came to Barcelona from Argentina when he was 12 years old. Barcelona paid for the hormone treatment that would allow him to grow and, in exchange, Messi would play soccer for the team’s academy. It was a gamble; they could have invested all this money and Messi could have just been an average player or amounted to nothing at all.

Instead he grew up to have his name said in the same breath as Pele, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer – names who have changed the history of soccer and given us some of the best moments of the sport.

393 league games, 62 in the Spanish Cup, 17 in the Spanish Super Cup, 119 in the Champions League, four in the UEFA Super Cup and five in the Club World Cup -- that’s all in Messi’s resume over the past 13 years.

During a time when money has become the most important thing for some players, it is invaluable to find a player who is this loyal to a club. There are only few players in the modern game who remain one-club players: Steven Gerrard in Liverpool, Phillip Lahm in Bayern Munich and Gianluigi Buffon in Juventus. They are players whose names have transcended money and are beloved symbols of their clubs.

Barcelona had its golden era from 2009-2012, and Messi was at the very center of it. He was the face of the team and the most beloved player in Barcelona.

Messi has scored 552 goals and assisted 196 in those 600 games, numbers that add to the myth of what Messi has been for soccer in the past decade, and it is the love he has for the game that has driven him to achieve so much.

“Money is not a motivating factor. Money doesn’t thrill me or make me play better because there are benefits to being wealthy. I’m just happy with a ball at my feet,” Messi once said. “My motivation comes from playing the game I love. If I wasn’t paid to be a professional soccer player, I would willingly play for nothing.”

Out of those 600 games with Barcelona, Messi has helped his team win 426 games and draw 105 times. Most importantly, he has won 30 trophies with the club.

Barcelona has won 71 percent of the games Messi has played for them, and according to ESPN’s Deportes contributor Alexis Martin Tamayo Messi has won a trophy every 21 games he’s played.  That insane statistic attests to his consistency and the way he plays. He cares more about team success than his own individual success and trophies.

Even in a team sport like soccer, Messi shines brighter than anyone. He shines because his teammates make him better and he makes his teammates better.

Messi has 130 individual awards collected since he was a teenager but maintains the goals of the team are more important than individual accomplishments.

“I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else,” Messi said. “I'm more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world.”

That’s the kind of player Messi is. Beyond the numbers, he’s just a kid who’s glad to have the chance to play.


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.