Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sit at the very pinnacle of striking stature in today's game, and both have a habit of producing impressive numbers as they go about their business for club and country. Whether it's record-breaking goals or record-breaking fees that follow in their wake, the pair are unarguably footballing icons with talent that places them at the very fore of the sport.
Both have unsurprisingly been key figures in leaving Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain clear at the top of their respective leagues, and while the former La Blaugrana team-mates could yet meet in this season's UEFA Champions League, they first are locking horns in the colours of their national teams.
In the second ever international friendly at Sweden's new Friends Arena, Ibrahimovic will lead out his national side against Messi's Argentina in a game that will showcase two of football's most eye-catching talents. Ahead of that, FIFA.com thought it would see how the two totemic figures squared up on paper, comparing some of the most significant statistics accrued over their trophy-laden careers so far.
Ibrahimovic: 1.95 metres
Messi: 1.69 metres
At the age of 11, La Pulga was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, and though River Plate had shown interest in signing him, the Buenos Aires heavyweights were unwilling to pay for the treatment. Barcelona were. The rest is history. Ibrahimovic, who is almost a foot taller than Messi, recently joked: “Messi may have four [FIFA Ballon d’Or] awards, but I don’t have to stand on a box to buy a chocolate bar from a vending machine!”
Countries they were eligible to represent
Ibrahimovic was born in Sweden to a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother, and though he could have chosen any of the three countries, he plumped for the former. Messi was called up by the Spain U-20s in 2004, but he respectfully declined the offer and instead accepted the chance to represent Argentina U-20s.
Ibrahimovic: 39 in 85 appearances
Messi: 31 in 76 appearances
Ibrahimovic, with a 0.46 goals-per-game ratio, is third on Sweden’s list of all-time leading marksmen, shy of Sven Rydell (49) and Gunnar Nordahl (43). Messi is fourth on Argentina’s, shy of Gabriel Batistuta (56), Hernan Crespo (35) and Diego Maradona (34), though the Rosario native did net 12 times in nine internationals in 2012 to rocket his average up to 0.41 per match.
FIFA World Cup™ goals
Ibrahimovic: 0 in 5 appearances
Messi: 1 in 8 appearances
Messi made his debut in the competition in 2006, rising from the bench to slot home the final goal in a 6-0 rout of Serbia and Montenegro. However, the 18-year-old No19 failed to find the target in his remaining two appearances on German soil. To great surprise, despite playing every minute of Argentina’s five matches at South Africa 2010, Messi was unable to score.
Career cost in transfer fees
Messi joined Barcelona as a pre-teen and has never come close to leaving Camp Nou. After swapping Malmo for Ajax for 80m Swedish kronor, Ibrahimovic has been the subject of a series of big-money moves: Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain paid €16m, €24.8m, €69m, €24m and €20m respectively for the enigmatic striker.
Ibrahimovic won two Eredivisie crowns with Ajax before moving to Italy. There, though the two Scudetti he helped Juventus to win were revoked due to Calciopoli, he became an Italian champion in each of his three seasons at Inter Milan, and in the first of two at Milan. Ibra also won a Spanish title in his single campaign with Barcelona. Messi, for his part, lifted La Liga’s trophy in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Domestic league top scorer awards
Ibrahimovic hit 25 goals for Inter in the 2008/09 Serie A to become the first Swede since Nordahl in 1954/55 to finish as the Capocannoniere. He claimed the same prize thanks to 28 goals for Milan in 2011/12. Messi, despite finishing as the UEFA Champions League’s leading marksman in four successive seasons and setting innumerable other scoring records, only managed to top La Liga’s chart in 2009/10 and 2011/12.
2012/13 goals (club only)
Ibrahimovic: 22 in 26 games
Messi: 45 in 34 games
Ibra’s statistics – including 20 in 20 in Ligue 1 – are mightily impressive, but they pale in comparison to Messi’s. The 25-year-old has scored 34 times in 22 matches in the league (1.55 per game), leaving him well on course to break his own record of 50 for goals in a Spanish season. Messi’s five strikes in six UEFA Champions League appearances have also moved him on to 56 overall, shy of just Raul (71), Ruud van Nistelrooy (60) and Andriy Shevchenko (59).
Ibrahimovic: 10 for both Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden
Messi: 10 for both Barcelona and Argentina
Ibrahimovic wore the No9 at Malmo, Ajax and Juventus, the No8 at Inter Milan, the No9 again at Barcelona, and the No11 at AC Milan. He was Sweden’s No21 at Korea/Japan 2002, but has been their first-choice No10 since the following year.
Messi started out as a No30 for Barcelona, progressing to No19, before inheriting his favoured No10 from Ronaldinho at the start of the 2008/09 season. The diminutive attacker began the FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005 as his nation’s No18 and on the bench – Patricio Perez, who now plays for Boca Unidos in the Argentinian second tier, was the No10 – but finished it with the adidas Golden Ball, the adidas Golden Shoe and having inspired La Albiceleste to a 2-1 win over Nigeria in the final. Messi has sported various jerseys for the senior Argentina side, including No7, No15, No18 and No19, but has been their regular No10 since 2008.