Lionel Messi continues to do Lionel Messi things, the Barcelona superstar producing a virtuoso performance against Eibar last weekend, scoring four times in a 5-0 victory for the La Liga leaders.
The Argentine’s latest display of greatness saw him become the first player in history to reach 1000 goal involvements for club and country, his haul taking him to a barely believable 696 goals and 306 assists.
Heading rapidly towards a fourth consecutive Pichichi trophy and record-breaking seventh of a phenomenal career, it is now also 54 goals in his past 54 La Liga appearances since the start of last season.
We’ve decided to look back at Messi’s magic of recent times, and analyse the six-time Ballon d’Or winners 54 goals in just 54 appearances…
⚽️ Messi 14'
⚽️ Messi 37'
⚽️ Messi 40'
⚽️ Messi 87’
Remember when the 🐐 had the 🐐 performance? Yes?
Here it is again anyway 😍pic.twitter.com/x9R4oBDokv
— Goal (@goal) February 22, 2020
Predictably Messi’s most prolific avenue to goal, the forward’s dependance on his left foot is well-documented, but for a player so dominant on one side he remains the most difficult proposition in world football for opposing defenders.
Indeed, such is the ability of the star’s left foot, he reached a landmark of 500 career goals with his stronger side in a defeat to Levante earlier this season.
Of the Argentine’s 54-goal haul over a little more than one-and-a-half seasons, 49 have come from his wand of a left foot – a huge 90.7% of his total goals scored in La Liga during this time.
Messi has also reached 25+ league goals in each of his past ten La Liga seasons and needs just seven more to reach that tally again this season – he’s currently the top scorer in Spain’s top flight despite not starting a match until Barcelona’s eighth game of the campaign.
Pele once criticised the Argentine by suggesting Messi ‘shoots with one leg, only has one skill, doesn’t head the ball well’, but with a left foot like his, why use your swinger?
That has not stopped the 32-year-old from scoring five goals with his weaker right side, though those goals account for just 9.3% of his tally since the beginning of the 2018/19 season.
Speaking of heading and remarkably, even for a player of his stature and playing style, Messi has failed to score a single headed goal throughout his 54-goal tally.
Having scored at least one headed goal every year since 2007, Messi blanked during 2018 and has failed to register a single header for club or country since the 2016/17 season. His tendency to drop deeper in recent seasons is likely reason for this decrease, however, with many predicting the forward to evolve into a full-time midfielder as he reaches the latter stages of his career.
Having scored three hat-tricks last season, last weekend’s four-goal haul against Eibar saw Messi level that tally already in the current campaign, moving him ahead of long term rival Cristiano Ronaldo for the most trebles scored in history in the process.
Indeed, Messi’s record of three hat-tricks puts him comfortably ahead of the competition in Spain’s top flight, with just one other treble scored this season by the rest of the division combined – Real Betis’ Joaquin scoring three times against Athletic Bilbao in December.
Last season’s Pichichi trophy also saw the 32-year-old move level with Telmo Zarra for the most ever titles, though Messi will surely surpass the Spanish footballing great this season having now moved five goals ahead of nearest challenger Karim Benzema.
Finding the game-plan to nullify Messi’s extraordinary talents must give opposition managers sleepless nights, a dilemma whether to sit deep and compact defensively or play a high line in a bid to push the forward further away from goal.
In truth, Messi is dangerous from all different types of range, as evidenced by his high proportion of goals from outside of the box. Of his 54 goals, 17 have come from outside of the penalty area and whilst the majority of these may be from free-kick situations – just a little less than a third of all his goals come from outside the 18-yard area.
Let him shoot from distance at your own risk.
Is there a better free-kick taker in world football at present? If so, we’re struggling to think of one.
Messi’s set-piece specials have lit up the Camp Nou for seasons now, with ten of his goals having come from dead ball situations outside of the penalty area. To put that into context, no player in Spain’s top flight has scored more than three free-kicks during that period.
Messi remains Barcelona’s chief penalty taker, despite a rather mixed record from the spot throughout his career. His tally of 54-goals has been supplemented by six converted penalties, with just one missed – against Real Vallodolid last season – during that time.
His record of having scored 6/7 La Liga penalties since the start of last season is an improvement on his overall ratio throughout his career, Messi’s conversion rate from the spot standing at just 71.36%.
Development coaches will often encourage their young players to shoot low and hard when it comes to efforts on goal, and that certainly seems to be a mantra for the greatest goalscorer in world football.
Messi’s placement statistics point to either bottom corner as the forward’s preferred target when shooting towards goal, firing 62 of his 140 shots at each of the bottom corners, with an almost even proportion (14 bottom left, 15 bottom right) of his goals coming in those areas of the goal.
However, despite firing almost 50% more shots towards the goalkeepers left, Messi’s highest proportion of goals come from the opposite side – the European Golden Shoe holder often scoring trademark efforts when cutting in from the right-hand side to find the far corner.
His bottom corner statistics are significantly higher than the ten goals which have nestled in either top corner combined, whilst just four goals have been placed centrally – each driven low.