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What does Messi need to be the top scorer for Argentina and in the history of the World Cup?

Leo Messi got off the mark at Qatar 2022 but will need to up his average to become Argentina’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup.

LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - NOVEMBER 22: Emiliano Martinez and Lionel Messi of Argentina stand for the national anthem prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium on November 22, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard HeathcoteDiarioAS

When he converted his 10th minute penalty in Tuesday’s opening group game against Saudi Arabia, Lionel Messi joined a list of five players who have scored in four or more World Cup finals. At club level, Messi holds a host of goal-scoring records and has been Argentina’s maximum goal scorer of all-time since edging past Gabriel Batistuta’s previous record (56) in November 2016.

But among the World Cup’s top scorers, Messi finds himself well down the ranking. His current tally stands at seven goals from five editions of the tournament - at South Africa 2010, he didn’t score a single goal. That has left him with an almost impossible task of even breaking into the top three - he would have to double his overall number of goals just to pull level with the legendary Gerd Müller, the tournament’s third top scorer in history with 14 goals. Above Müller, there is Ronaldo Nazário (15) and Miroslav Klose (16).

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All-time top scorers at the World Cup

  • 16 Miroslav Klose (Germany) 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014
  • 15 Ronaldo (Brazil) 1998, 2002, 2006
  • 14 Gerd Müller (West Germany) 1970, 1974
  • 13 Just Fontaine (France) 1958
  • 12 Pelé (Brazil) 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970

That’s not to say that Messi cannot climb further up the table at Qatar 2022, quite possibly his last World Cup. He also has the chance to extend his own national team record and become Argentina’s top scorer of all-time at the World Cup finals.

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Batistuta.Stu ForsterGetty Images

Argentina’s all-time top scorers at the World Cup

  • 10 Gabriel Batistuta 1994, 1998, 2002
  • 8 Guillermo Stábile 1930
  • 8 Diego Maradona 1982, 1986, (1990), 1994
  • 7 Messi 2006, 2014, 2018, 2022
  • 6 Mario Kempes 1978

Messi has three former Argentina players ahead of him - Gabriel Batistuta, ranked joint eighth, holds the record. Batigol scored 10 goals at three World Cup finals: USA 94, France 98, and Korea/Japan 2002.

He is followed by Guillermo Stábile, who scored eight goals, one more than Messi’s entire tally, in just one edition - Uruguay 1930. Stábile didn’t even play every match - he was on the bench for the first game against France, then went on to hit a hat trick against Mexico, braces against Chile and the USA and completed his own personal account with a goal against the hosts in the final.

Tied with Stábile on eight goals is Diego Maradona, who found the net in three World Cups - 1982, 1986 and 1994 but fired blanks at Italy 90.

So to become Argentina’s top scorer in the final stages of the World Cup, Messi requires another three goals to pull level with Batistuta and four goals to overtake him. Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina have two group games left to play - against Mexico on Saturday then Poland on Wednesday. Messi would need to score a brace in both games to equal Batigol and hope the Albiceleste advance to the next round to give him a chance of taking the record.


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