Lionel Messi tops Cristiano Ronaldo as the record scorer in Europe's top five league

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Barcelona would be in dire straits without Lionel Messi right now.

Replacing Ernesto Valverde with Quique Setién hasn't had the desired effect at Camp Nou and the Blaugrana needed a late penalty from their star man to grab three points against Real Sociedad.

It was a crucial win for the Catalans, moving them back to the La Liga summit after losing El Clasico the week before, even though Real Madrid can return to the top with a game in-hand.

Nevertheless, it was imperative that Messi held his nerve from 12 yards to apply the pressure on their rivals from the capital and he made no mistake with 81 minutes on the clock.

And while there wasn't much to cheer about from an overall Barcelona perspective, Messi's conversion from the penalty spot, albeit nothing special, was a moment of history for the Argentine.

Messi gets one over Ronaldo

The rivalry between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is simply inescapable in the world of football and the former's winner against Sociedad saw him take the initiative in the GOAT debate.

That's because the goal made Messi the top scorer in the history of Europe's top five leagues (La Liga, Serie A, Premier League, Bundesliga and Ligue 1) by way of surpassing Ronaldo.

According to Opta, Messi has now scored 438 goals in 474 appearances, eclipsing Ronaldo's total of 437 from 66 fewer games.

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Messi joins the history books AGAIN

Now, of course, Ronaldo could easily regain the lead by scoring a brace against Inter Milan today, but time is on Messi's side when it comes to finishing his career with the gold medal.

Messi not only has a more prolific goal-scoring rate than his old Real Madrid rival, but is also three years his junior.

That being said, Ronaldo has turned his advancing age into becoming more of a poacher, whereas Messi seems to be dropping further back as his pace and agility starts to fade.

So, the eventual winner is perhaps not as clearcut as it seems, even though most football fans would probably put their money on Messi to retire with the statistics on his side.

GIVEMESPORT's Kobe Tong says

This is further proof that Messi is the greatest footballer of the modern era.

It's remarkable to think that Messi has been able to outscore the player that many consider to be the greatest goal-scorer in history despite playing fewer games and in deeper positions. 

Combine that with the fact Messi is arguably the best passer, playmaker and dribbler in the world, despite that not being his first priority, and you have yourself the ultimate footballing machine. 

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No matter how the tug-of-war for first place pans out over the coming weeks, it's hard to deny that Messi is deserving of the throne regardless of whether the data says so.

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