On Thursday night, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi created yet another history, surpassing Brazillian icon Pelé as the all-time leading goalscorer of CONMEBOL after scoring an elegant hat-trick against Bolivia at the Monumental.
A six-time Ballon d’Or winner, Messi had moved level with Pele with his opening goal of the match in the 14th minute before his brace sent him clear in the history books.
The Argentine forward produced a moment of Messi magic in the 14th minute as he bamboozled his opponent by playing the ball through his legs before curling a shot from outside the 18-yard box which went past the goalkeeper in Buenos Aires, where the 34-year-old then made history in the 64th minute to give the hosts a 2-0 lead after showcasing a mammoth close control inside the 18-yard box by dodging two defenders and putting the ball at the back of the net with his right foot.
To complete his hat-trick, Messi netted the ball in the near post after a good follow up eventually leading to a 3-0 win for Argentina against Bolivia in the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar.
Next on the list of leading CONMEBOL scorers after Messi are Pelé (77 goals), Leo’s former teammate Luis Suárez (64 goals), followed by Chile forward Alexis Sanchez (46 goals) and Peru star Paolo Guerrero (38 goals).
Though it is not the first time Messi has eclipsed Pele, having surpassed the Santos icon with the most goals for an individual club with his 644th appearance in Barcelona colours back in last December.
It comes after Messi guided Argentina to Copa America glory in July, ending the country’s 28-year long wait for silverware with his first ever senior international crown. Lionel Messi was overcome with emotion as he fulfilled a much-awaited “dream” of his glorious career.
With La Albiceleste also finally able to celebrate July’s Copa America triumph on a momentous night in front of their own supporters at the Monumental, the left-footed Argentine maestro failed to hold back his tears of joy.
“I have dreamed of this for a long time and I thank God it was given to me,” he said on the pitch afterwards.
“It is a unique moment because of how it happened and after so much waiting.
“There was no better way for it to be and to be able to be here, celebrating, is something incredible.
“My mother and my brothers are up there, they suffered a lot too. I’m very happy.”
It was Messi’s seventh hat-trick for his country, but his first on home soil and ensured Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 22 matches, a streak that began in 2019.
It was further proof that Argentina are building themselves back up to a standard under coach Lionel Scaloni to which many associate with the two-time World Cup winners after a poor showing at Russia 2018, a tournament that essentially led to a reset.
Messi’s international future at the time was in doubt as he took an extended break from international football. During that time, many would have suggested Pele’s record looked set to outlast the Argentine talismanic centre forward.
“I cannot do more than be so happy, for my family who is watching me and for all Argentines,” Messi continued.
“I always say individual awards are secondary, because we are here for something else, but the truth is I am very excited.”