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Kylian Mbappe talks to Lionel Messi at the end of the match. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: When Lionel Messi scored the first goal for Paris Saint Germain against Nantes on Saturday, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner marked yet another incredible career milestone.

The 35-year-old, widely considered to be one of the greatest football players of all time, tapped the ball into the back of the net after getting on the end of Nuno Mendes’ deflected cross, and celebrated with his teammates as he achieved an astonishing feat - the 1,000th goal he has scored or assisted in his club career.

It is an achievement that spans almost 20 years since he first contributed to Barcelona’s success. In that time, he has scored 701 goals and provided 299 assists for Barcelona and PSG, since joining the latter in 2021.

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Ronaldo 88 fewer

To put Messi’s achievement into context, his longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo has 912 goals or assists in his club career since his breakthrough season with Sporting CP in 2002/03, which is 88 fewer than Messi’s tally. However, Ronaldo has played in four different top-flight divisions, including the Premier League, giving him an advantage in the age-old debate between the two players.

Regardless, Messi’s accomplishment is impressive, as no player from the top five leagues in Europe has reached the 1000-goal milestone in the modern era. Moreover, Messi’s finish against Nantes was his fifth goal in the last five matches, and he is currently in the best form of his PSG career since joining from Barcelona.

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Ronaldo has been a success with Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League since arriving at the club in January.

Messi has 12 goals and 12 assists in 20 Ligue 1 appearances so far this season, a much better return compared to his debut campaign at the Parc des Princes. He was also in impressive form at the World Cup, scoring seven goals and earning the Player of the Tournament trophy. As a result, Messi was named the FIFA Best Men’s Player for 2022 last Monday.

After scoring against Nantes, Messi helped PSG secure another important win in their pursuit of their second successive Ligue 1 title. PSG were leading 2-0 after Jaouen Hadjam’s own-goal, but Nantes fought back with two quick-fire goals from Ludovic Blas and Ignatius Ganago before halftime. However, PSG managed to score twice in the second half, with Danilo Pereira netting their third and Kylian Mbappe scoring the fourth in injury-time.

Messi is set to feature in PSG’s match against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-32 second-leg in Germany on Wednesday. PSG are currently trailing 1-0 from the first leg, after Kingsley Coman scored the winner. The little magician will be up for the challenge after his 1,000-goal milestone and the French side know the tie is not over with him on top form.

Highest level

It is a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to his incredible talent and longevity in football. As he continues to play at the highest level - where he has already won four Champions League titles, ten La Liga titles, and the World Cup with Argentina - it will be interesting to see how many more goals and achievements he can add to his already impressive resume.

The debate on whether Messi or Ronaldo is the better footballer is a highly subjective and contested one, and ultimately depends on individual opinions and preferences. They both have their own unique strengths and styles of play, with Messi known for his incredible dribbling ability and creativity, while Ronaldo is renowned for his speed, power, and accuracy in front of goal. Ultimately, it is up to individual fans and experts to decide who they believe is the better player but with a World Cup title and 1,000 goals scored or assisted, I think Messi gets my vote.