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He might have done it the hard way, but Lionel Messi now stands with Pelé with the most goals scored for a single club.
Barcelona legend Messi had the chance to net his historic 643rd goal from the penalty spot deep into first-half stoppage time in Saturday’s La Liga match against Valencia, but the 33-year-old Argentine’s shot was saved by visiting keeper Jaume Doménech.
Doménech couldn’t control the rebound, though, and Messi was quick to react to Jordi Alba’s deflected cross, as the 5-foot-7 forward headed the ball home from point-blank range to seal his milestone and even the match at 1-1:
The goal was Messi’s sixth this season in the Spanish top flight. It came after José Gayà shoved Antoine Griezmann down in the box. A criminally unmarked Mouctar Diakhaby had opened the scoring for Valencia about a half hour into the contest — the second game in a row Barcelona conceded the first goal at home.
Messi and company came back to beat Real Sociedad midweek, but they had no such luck on Saturday. After Ronald Araújo put the hosts in front early in the second half, Gayà made it 2-2 with about 20 minutes to play, forcing Ronald Koeman’s team to settle for a point.
Pelé, widely considered the greatest player of all time until Messi ascended to the throne, scored 643 times for Brazilian club Santos between 1956-1974 before finishing his career in the United States. Pelé played three seasons with the New York Cosmos in the now defunct North American Soccer League before retiring in 1977. The 80-year-old congratulated Messi on Instagram after his record was equalized.
“Like you, I know what it's like to love wearing the same shirt every day,” Pelé’s message read. “Congratulations on your historic record, Lionel. But above all, congratulations on your beautiful career at [Barcelona].
“Stories like ours, of loving the same club for so long, unfortunately will be increasingly rare in football,” he added. “I admire you a lot”.
Messi joined Barcelona’s youth ranks at 13 and as has only ever worn Barca’s shirt as a pro, although he went public with his desire to leave the Camp Nou last summer. His future with the Blaugrana remains very much in doubt; Messi’s contract expires at the end of this season and he has yet to sign an extension for the once-mighty club, which sits fifth in La Liga following Saturday’s setback.
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