Here, AFP sports compares the Argentine’s stats with his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the quest to be La Liga’s top dog.
Messi leads in La Liga
In early January, Barcelona and Messi appeared to be mired in a crisis after losing at Real Sociedad, whilst Ronaldo picked up his third career Ballon d’Or. In less than three months the tables have turned significantly as Messi has stormed ahead of Ronaldo in the race to be La Liga’s top scorer with 20 goals in his last 17 games.
Ronaldo’s production has dropped to nine in 14 matches in the new year, only three of those from open play in La Liga.
Messi now has 32 La Liga goals this season to Ronaldo’s 30.
The Champions of Champions
At least in goalscoring terms, the story has been different in the Champions League as Ronaldo rescued Madrid with three goals in an unexpectedly tight 5-4 aggregate win over Schalke to reach the quarter-finals.
Messi’s weaved his magic as Barca dismissed Manchester City in midweek, but was unusually wasteful in front of goal and also missed a penalty in the first leg.
Ronaldo’s treble saw him move level with Messi on 75 Champions League goals and set a new all-time record for goals in European competitions with 78.
Messi king of the Clasico
It is Messi who leads the way in the scoring charts in the history of one of the biggest fixtures in world football. The 27-year-old has struck 21 times in 29 meetings with Madrid, including two hat-tricks.
Ronaldo is joint fourth on the all-time list, tied with Madrid legends Ferenc Puskas and Francisco Gento and Barca’s Cesar Rodriguez with 14 goals in 22 Clasicos.
400-club beckons for Messi
A third career hat-trick against Madrid for Messi would also see him reach 400 goals for Barca in all competitions.
Messi currently has 397 goals in 464 official games for the Blaugrana to go with his 45 strikes in 97 caps for Argentina.
Ronaldo is edging closer to 500 career club goals as he has found the net 468 times with Madrid, Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon in 726 appearances.
The Madeira-born star also has a marginally better international record with 52 in 118 caps to make him Portugal’s all-time leading scorer.
Leaders of the most expensive frontlines in history
Madrid’s “BBC” front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo have amassed 77 goals and 42 assists this season with respected transfer website transfermarkt.com valuing the trio at 250 million euros.
Barca’s South American triumvirate of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez are fractionally ahead in the stats with 82 goals and 47 assists between them and in value at an estimated 260 million euros.