Even the most casual of football fans will know that Lionel Messi is an extraordinary footballer, although the Argentinian has surpassed even his own immaculate standards by edging closer to Barcelona’s all-time goal scoring record without stepping on to a football pitch.
The Catalan club’s record scorer, Cesar Rodriguez, had three goals wiped off his tally after an official investigation from Barcelona’s Centre of Documentation and Studies in collaboration with La Vanguardia, a leading Catalan daily newspaper, discovered an error and recounted.
That leaves Rodriguez’s final total at 232 goals for Barcelona in official matches, meaning Messi has the chance to equal the record amount set by “Pelucas” when he steps out onto the pitch at the Nou Camp tonight against Grenada.
“The study analysed and compared all of the match reports from César’s Barça career with La Vanguardia’s, a news paper founded in 1881, historical database,” says a statement released on Barcelona’s official site.
“The conclusion drawn from the study, not confirmed until today, is that César scored 232 official goals for Barça and not 235.”
Now the cynic in you may suggest that the conclusion of this news has been released to coincide with Barca’s only home game in the middle of a run of four games on the road, and you would probably be right.
Messi’s exploits in recent weeks have prompted plenty of talk over whether he is now the greatest of all time. His five against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League seemingly took him into a league of his own while his trademark, yet no less delightful, chip against Sevilla demonstrated that the diminutive Argentinian is at the top of his game.
But does it really matter that he will break the club’s scoring record? Surely Messi’s god-given talent stands up on its own, without the need to be propped up by records and trophies?
“I think you judge a footballer on his talent alone, not by what he's won,” believes Matt Le Tissier - although if there is any player who is likely to believe that it is Le Tissier, who with all the talent in the world stayed with Southampton throughout his career without winning a single trophy.
There is no doubt about it, Messi is making incredibly light work of passing Rodriguez’s record at a canter; at 24-years-old and with the record looming there was never any real doubt from the moment he emerged on the scene that he would be the one to break the 57-year-old record.
17 goals in his last seven games, 49 in his club colours for the season; the only surprise is that for all his goals this season he failed to score against Granada when the two teams met earlier in the season.
While the titles and trophies that Barcelona won with Messi leading Pep Guardiola’s side will be remembered – he leads what most described as the finest footballing outfit ever assembled – it is for the way he makes football fans feel that will mean his name lives on longer than he does.
His natural talent means that it is almost a mesmeric event to see him in full flow; anyone lucky enough to see him in action in the flesh, knows that the numbers and records pale in significance as he dances to his own rhythm.
The joy of watching the man comes not only from his ability but the humility and love for the game he holds. Messi's humble response to his five goals against Leverkusen was the mark of a man without a whiff of arrogance while his typical smile and point to the sky in celebration of another goal.
"I think what makes him so good is that he loves playing football. He is happy on the field and he can do things that no one else can do," Arsene Wenger said of Messi this week.
Le Tissier and Wenger's assertions are correct, and it is these qualities that separates Messi from the rest. Ultimately, when judging who is the finest, records do not matter. So when the great man inevitably equals Rodriguez’s record tonight, applaud the player himself, and not the goal he is bound to score.