If Argentina reach the World Cup final in Qatar, Lionel Messi could set a new mark for the most ever matches at the global showpiece competition.
Messi currently has 19 appearances over four World Cups, and along with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (17 appearances) will definitely equal the record for most trips to the finals this year.
That current record stands at five, held by Germany great LotharMatthäus (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998) and Mexico’s Rafael Márquez (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018).
Matthäus also holds the record for most appearances in matches with 25, having reached two deciders in 1986 and 1990, winning the latter.
A more contemporary German player is second on the list, with striker MiroslavKlose having featured in 24 games. He is also the record goalscorer in World Cups with 16.
Legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini is No. 3 on the list of most matches played with 23, followed by a trio of stars on 21 games – the great Diego Maradona from Argentina, West Germany’s Gerd Muller and Poland’s WladyslawZmuda.
Messi is likely to climb to at least fourth on that list if he plays in each of Argentina’s group games in Qatar, but another potential four games in the knockout rounds could take him to the very top and 26 matches in all.
It would be another major feather in his cap and accolade in a glittering career, while if he could lift the trophy itself, will perhaps settle the debate over whether he is the greatest player ever.
It is not just Maradona in front of him in terms of Argentine players, former midfielder Javier Mascherano has 20 games at the finals. Messi moving past both of those, injuries willing, makes him at the very least the leader from his own country.
Ronaldo is already the Portuguese player with the most appearances, while he could draw level with Klose on 24 matches if the European side go all the way in Qatar.
In terms of goals scored at the finals, Messi has six so far, with the top Argentine being Gabriel Batistuta’s 10.
Ronaldo has seven goals from previous tournaments and will be eyeing the Portuguese record of Eusebio, who netted nine. —Mzansi Football