Lionel Messi: Finalist in focus

  • Lionel Messi has been named among the three finalists for The Best FIFA Men’s Player

  • He won the Copa America with Argentina in 2021

  • We look back at a rollercoaster season for the 34-year-old

Lionel Messi experienced possibly one of the most emotional seasons of his career in 2020/21, winning the Copa America with Argentina just a few weeks before leaving Barcelona. But Messi being Messi, he still found time to break a few more records along the way. Ahead of The Best FIFA Football Awards™ 2021, we look back at the Argentinian’s most memorable moments.

Qualification for Qatar 2022

On 17 November 2021 it became official – Argentina will be taking part in their 17th FIFA World Cup™ finals. La Albiceleste made heavy weather of their first four qualifiers, with the man affectionately referred to as La Pulga (The Flea) squandering several opportunities during the Peru game in particular. Nevertheless, captain Messi played every minute of every qualifier and contributed two of Argentina’s nine goals. Qualification also sets the scene for the dribbling maestro to notch up yet another record by going to his fifth World Cup – a feat equalled only by Antonio Carbajal, Lothar Matthaus and Gianluigi Buffon.

Copa America 2021

Messi delivered his best international performances to date as he clinched his first-ever major trophy with Argentina. As captain, he also made a major contribution to this success, scoring four goals and setting up five more to finish the tournament as top goalscorer and with the most assists. Given these impressive statistics, it came as little surprise that Messi was named the Copa America’s best player.

I have the peace of mind of having achieved the dream that has been denied to me so many times. It was like a dream, a spectacular moment. I couldn’t believe it had happened. I didn’t quite understand what was happening​.

Lionel Messi

Farewell to Barcelona

Just a few weeks after this international triumph, on 6 August, the football world was rocked by the official confirmation that Lionel Messi was set to leave Barcelona. The idea of Messi walking out on to a pitch in anything other than those famous blue and red stripes was unfathomable to many. Although the club legend did indeed bid farewell to La Liga and the club he had represented for 21 years after the 2020/21 season, he did not leave without adding a few more records to his storied career. His 30 goals for the campaign meant he was the league’s top goalscorer for the fifth successive year, collecting the Pichichi trophy for a remarkable eighth time. Messi undoubtedly left his mark in the history books of Barcelona and football as a whole during his time at the Spanish club, playing a record 778 matches, scoring an unparalleled 672 goals and netting 50 times in a single season. Who knows what records he will break in Ligue 1?

Messi in numbers

14 This will be the 14th time the Argentinian has made The Best FIFA Men’s Player podium, tieing Cristiano Ronaldo's record. 91 La Pulga scored 91 goals in the 2012 calendar year, surpassing Gerd Muller’s previous record of 85 goals set in 1972. Incredibly, Messi needed just 69 games to reach this tally. 158 The number of times Lionel Messi has represented La Albiceleste, more than any other Argentinian player. During this time he has scored 80 goals – another national record.

What others say about Messi...

"What I want most is to play with Messi again. He can play in my role, it wouldn’t be a problem with me! For sure, next year we have to do it." Neymar in early December 2020 "I think everything about Messi has already been said. We are proud to have him and we are convinced he will give us more joy." Lionel Scaloni in a press conference ahead of his side’s Copa America group match against Bolivia "I have always had a friendly relationship with him. I shared the stage at awards ceremonies with him for 12, 13 or 14 years. People always look for a rivalry to create more excitement... I never saw him as a rival." Cristiano Ronaldo after Juventus’s 3-0 win over Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League in December 2020

The Best

The winners in all categories, including the FIFA Fan Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award, will be crowned on 17 January 2022. Who do you think should win this year? Share your views using the hashtag #TheBest.