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Happy 32nd birthday to Lionel Messi, the greatest footballer of all time

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Lionel Messi turns 32 years old today.

As much as we wish the Barcelona and Argentina legend a happy birthday, a big part of us also feels quite sad.

Whether we like it or not, Messi is fast approaching the final years of his remarkable career. Most footballers retire somewhere around their mid-30s and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner isn’t far off that now.

It’ll be down to Messi when he hangs up his boots. He said earlier this year that he’ll stretch out his retirement for as long as he can, but even if he plays until he’s 38 that’s only six years away now.

Today is a reminder that we should all appreciate the footballer regarded by many fans as the greatest of all time. As much as we’d like him to be, he won’t be around forever.

Messi has achieved everything in football, aside from winning a major tournament at international level.

This is now the Argentine’s burning ambition, above everything else.

He’s come agonisingly close on several occasions - including finishing as a World Cup finalist in 2014 - but has an opportunity to land his hands on the Copa America after Argentina progressed to the quarter-finals on Sunday night.

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If he does win the Copa America next month then even more people will agree that Messi has done enough over the course of his career to be labelled the best player ever.

There are several other candidates for this honour - namely Pele, Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo - but Messi, for many, trumps the lot.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the achievements and records that Messi boasts on his ridiculous CV.

With 603 goals in 687 games, Messi is Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer. César Rodríguez Álvarez is the club’s second highest goalscorer with 232 goals.

Barcelona v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg

Messi is also Argentina’s record goalscorer, hitting the back of the net 67 times for his country since 2005.

No player has won the Ballon d’Or more than Messi (five times) - Ronaldo is on the same number, for now - and his six European Golden Shoe awards is also a record.

He’s won La Liga’s Best Player award seven times, made the UEFA Team of the Season 10 times, and has finished as La Liga’s top scorer on six occasions. He’s also been La Liga’s top assist provider five times.

Messi has scored more Champions League goals than any other player in six different seasons and has won European football’s most prestigious trophy with Barça four times.

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He holds the Guinness World Record for most goals in a calendar year (an astonishing 91, in 2012) and boasts the longest goalscoring run in a domestic league (21 matches, 33 goals in 2012–13).

Aside from his unbelievable stats and records - and perhaps even more importantly - there have been few players, if any, who have brought as much joy to so many as Messi.

There have been countless games down the years where you’re left wondering whether Messi really is human. There’s something otherworldly about him when he’s on the pitch.

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We’ll leave the final words of this Messi tribute to one of his biggest fans: the commentator Ray Hudson.

"They tell me that all men are equal in the eyes of God,” he said during one match, “but this man seriously makes you think about those words."

Topics:
Football
Argentina Football
La Liga
Barcelona
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo

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