Messi, in the game against Valencia.Joan Monfort / AP
The Flea becomes King.
At 33, after 747 games for Barcelona, Lionel Messi struck a new record.
One more for the Argentine, who already holds the marks of top scorer in LaLiga (450), Golden Boots (six), greatest gunner in a calendar year (91), more triplets in the Champions League (eight, along with Cristiano) and in LaLiga (36), foreign player with the most LaLiga titles (10), among others.
This, however, is a different brand for the Barça captain.
If he had already surpassed Di Stéfano's 18 goals in the classics (he adds 26), Maradona's 34 goals with Argentina (70 counts) and Johan Cruyff's three Golden Balls (he has six), this Saturday against Valencia Messi he equaled to another king of football, the King.
The 10 became the top scorer in a single club: 643 (in 748 games).
A record that belonged to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé, alone at Santos, with which he is now even.
On September 7, 1956, when Santos faced Cubatão, everything changed in the history of the São Paulo side.
Pelé, with 15 years, 10 months and 15 days, debuted with the
How could it be otherwise, he scored a goal.
Messi's history at Barcelona began on October 16, 2004. He was 17 years, 3 months and 22 days old.
Messi, who like Pelé started as a right winger, took seven games and 72 minutes to sign his first goal, against Albacete.
In 1974, after having retired from Canarinha in 1971, Pelé rejected Joao Havelange's invitation to participate in the World Cup in Germany.
A few months later he would move to New York to play in the Cosmos of the NASL (North American Soccer League), a minor league for his legend.
A contract of four and a half million dollars tax free.
The 643 goals he scored in 757 official matches, to which must be added the 448 he scored in friendlies.
In total, according to the official Santos website, the King collected 1,091 networks.
It was no coincidence the number of friendlies that Santos played.
In 1968 alone, for example, the Brazilian team played 82 matches and traveled 112,889 kilometers on their tours around the world.
Taking Pelé for a walk was the only way the São Paulo club had to support Pelé in the squad.
"I was two or three times very close to going to Real Madrid," acknowledged, later, the winner of three World Cups.
Also Milan, Inter and Bayern chased the signing of O Rei.
It was impossible.
“I was doing well in Brazil, with great players, and I didn't really want to change.
I only went to the United States to promote soccer, ”he explained.
"Where are you going?"
Messi was also close to leaving Barcelona.
The last, publicly recognized by the Argentine, was last summer, when he sent a burofax to try to make use of the clause of his contract that allowed him to leave at the end of the 2019-2020 campaign.
He had already tried it before in 2014, when the team was not working with the Tata Martino and injuries had come back to haunt him (he suffered four muscle problems during the 2013-2014 campaign).
"Where are you going?
Nowhere are you going to be better than here ”, Tito Vilanova, who died a few days later, warned him.
Two years later, after having reinvented himself after Guardiola's goodbye and getting a treble in 2015, he also considered his departure when he felt persecuted by the Treasury.
The Provincial Court of Barcelona sentenced him and his father, Jorge Horacio, to 21 months in prison for defrauding 4.1 million euros from the Treasury.
“They were cruel to me.
I did not want to leave Barça, but to leave Spain.
I felt very mistreated and did not want to be here any longer, "confessed Messi.
But Messi, with or without desire, always stayed at Barça.
Symbol, in any case, of his affection for a club that opened its doors to him when he was 13 years old.
Today, 19 years after he arrived in Barcelona in 2001, he caught up with Pelé.
I had suspense.
First he tried it from 11 meters.
But penalties are, if anything, the weak point of 10 (23 of the 103 that he has taken with the Barça shirt have failed).
The rematch was immediate: he finished off with a header to make it 1-1.
The Brazilian was never too generous with Messi.
At least, in his statements.
“Cristiano is better than Messi, but I was the best of all.
Cristiano is more stable and Messi is not a scorer.
How can you make a comparison between a player who heads well and kicks well with both legs and another who only kicks with one leg, has a skill and does not head well? ”Said O Rei.
Messi never answered.
He equaled his mark, however, with a header.
The Rosario scored 530 goals with his left leg, 88 with his right, 23 with his head, one with his hand and another with his chest.
And against Valencia he dressed as a King.