Lionel Messi turns 35 and is backed to show his best version next season.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi believes the world would see the best version of Lionel Messi next season. The Argentinean moved to Paris from Barcelona last summer but struggled to adapt to life in France. He ended the season with just 11 goals from 34 appearances across competitions.

Speaking to L’Equipe, Al-Khelaifi said Messi has used the year to adapt to the changes in his life.

“There is no doubt that Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or a record seven times, and it was not his best season. But after more than twenty years in Barcelona, he discovered a new country, a new city, a new league, a new team. A new culture. As well as his family, and he was afflicted also by the Coronavirus. It was not easy for Messi last season, but next season, we will see the best version of Messi ever,”

said Al Khelaifi.

Meanwhile, Parisians president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has backed Lionel Messi to show his best form in the upcoming campaign. Elsewhere, former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has kept the door open for a future move to the Parc des Princes.

Lionel Messi is celebrating his birthday on Friday as he turns 35.

Messi is also entering the final 12 months of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain (though the club have the option of adding another year) in what could prove to be a significant period as he starts to wind down his career.

Of course, there’s no specific reason to suggest that Messi is thinking about calling it quits at the highest level, but it stands to reason that given his age and contractual circumstance, there’s a possibility that 2022-23 might be his final season at a major European club.

So we thought we’d celebrate the Barcelona and Argentina legend’s big day by taking a look back at certain aspects of his incredible career to date; all he has achieved, all he has yet to achieve and even a few of the big milestones he may still pass.

Messi made a tearful move to PSG on a free transfer in August 2021 after Barcelona’s €1.2 billion debt prevented them from being able to offer him a new five-year contract.

Having only represented one club from the age of 13, the transfer sent ructions through football with many drawn to question whether a player of Messi’s gargantuan stature would be able to adapt to a new environment after so many years playing HIS way at HIS club.

While still far from poor form, Messi has struggled to match the formidably high output of his Barca pomp, registering the worst single-season scoring rate of his entire career in his inaugural campaign in Paris.

Messi scored 11 goals in 34 games in all competitions in 2021-22 and averaged 0.345 goals per 90 minutes at club level — his lowest return on record and worst since 2007-08 when he mustered a scoring rate of 0.43 goals per 90 mins (16 goals in 40 games) in what was an injury ravaged campaign for Barca.

However, it was better news on the assist front as Messi pitched in with 15 in all competitions, though all of them came in Ligue 1. This level is broadly consistent with his average assist rate (20 in all comps) over the course of his nine prior club seasons at Camp Nou.

Messi also managed to add a new trinket to his incredible trophy haul by winning the Ligue 1 title in his maiden season — the 35th major club honour of his career.

The next major tournament on Messi’s radar is the 2022 World Cup in Qatar which Argentina qualified for in good time, mathematically securing their place at the tournament with a 0-0 draw against rivals Brazil back in November 2021.

The records he still holds

Messi’s place in football history is already assured, having won 38 senior titles since making his debut for Barcelona in October 2004.

Only one player has won more senior competitive trophies in that time and he just so happens to have played alongside Messi for the majority of it: Brazilian right-back Dani Alves is leading the way with 40 top honours.

For Messi, the one trophy that has (thus far) got away has been the FIFA World Cup, which he came so close to winning with Argentina in 2014 only to lose out to Germany in the final. It’s more than likely that Qatar 2022 represents his last chance to right that particular wrong.

As for individual records, Messi continues to hold a wide array that are unlikely to ever be surpassed.

These include (but are certainly not limited to):

— Most official goals for a single club: 672, for Barcelona

— Most assists for a single club: 268, for Barcelona

— Most goals in a single club season: 73, for Barcelona in 2011-12

— Only player ever to score 40+ goals in 12 consecutive seasons and 30+ goals in 13 consecutive seasons

— Most goals (27), assists (14) and appearances (45) in El Clasico derby games against Real Madrid.

— Guinness World Record for top goal scorer for club and country in a single calendar year (91 goals in official games in 2012.)

Records/milestones Messi could still hit

Both Messi and Ronaldo are close to joining the ridiculously exclusive 500 League Goals club, according to the records kept by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS)

Heading into the 2022-23 campaign, Messi has 480 club goals to his credit, which puts him 17 goals behind Ronaldo. The 37-year-old Portugal international, with 497 goals, is poised within a hat trick’s width of joining Ferenc Puskas (514 goals), Josef Bican (518), Romario (544) and Pele (604) in the grandest of goal-scoring pantheons.

In all competitions, Messi has 787 goals and is only 13 shy of joining Ronaldo (821) as the only two players in history to have scored 800 or more goals in official matches.

At international level, Messi still has some way to go to catch his adversary, having scored 86 goals for Argentina in comparison to Ronaldo’s 117 goals for Portugal — which is the current world record in men’s football. Iran’s Ali Daei (109) is the only other male player to break 100.

When it comes to the Ballon d’Or, Messi was the second-oldest player ever to win the award in 2021 aged (34 years, 158 days) and tops the all-time table with seven gongs to his name. Ronaldo is his closest rival (5) on that front in much the same way he trails Messi in the all-time list of European Golden Shoe wins (6 vs. 4.)

Given that Ronaldo is two years older than Messi it is unlikely that the former will be able to close the gap before he calls time on his career. That said, Sir Stanley Matthews was 41 years and 320 days old when he won the inaugural Ballon d’Or in 1956, so perhaps there is still time after all!

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