Lionel Messi broke Pele’s record for most international goals by a South American footballer with a hat-trick in Argentina’s World Cup qualifying win over Bolivia on Thursday night.
Messi scored all his country’s goals in the 3-0 defeat of Bolivia in Buenos Aires, giving him 79 for Argentina and taking him past Pele’s haul for Brazil of 77.
In front of 20,000 fans at the Monumental Stadium, Messi matched Pele when he opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a shot from outside the box.
He broke the record by dribbling past a defender for his second in the 64th minute, and added his third from a rebound two minutes from the end.
The 34-year-old celebrated after the match with the Copa America trophy, having led Argentina to his first major title with his country in July with a victory over Brazil in the final.
It’s the modern-era question that divides opinion: is Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo the greatest player on the planet?
The pair have been smashing records for fun throughout their careers, so there is a striking correlation that both superstars made blockbuster moves and set international records in almost perfect tandem over the past month.
Ronaldo overtook Ali Daei to become the world’s top all-time international scorer on 111 goals after netting twice in World Cup qualifying against the Republic of Ireland at the turn of this month.
Eight days later, Messi has become South America’s all-time top scorer and moves into joint-fifth spot on the world list with Godfrey Chitalu of Zambia.
But Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar is clipping at his heels with 69 goals for Brazil.
The graphic below breaks down his international haul and emphasises the Argentine’s knack of producing jaw-dropping goals from range, with 18 scored from outside the box – while all but seven goals have come from his favoured left boot.