specials | 2017-06-24
Messi after 30 - Stats reveal he could become the greatest goalscorer of all time
The Argentinian is now thirty years old, and his goals don't show any sign of stopping anytime soon
Lionel Messi has scored 507 goals for Barcelona, 328 of them in La Liga, and 58 goals for Argentina. Only five other players featuring in European leagues managed to score over 300 goals in a single league. Using the RSSSF as reference for our data, Messi has scored 565 official goals in his career, putting the Argentinian as the 9th best goalscorer of all time, 240 goals away from reaching Josef Bican as the greatest scorer of all, and a little 11 goals to become one of the top six most prolific scorers.
Given the jump from 6th to 5th on their list is a big one (from 576 to 735 goals), we analyzed how each of the most prolific goalscorers, from several different eras, have kept their scoring ratio going after they turned 30 years old. Seeing how legendary and contemporary players have done after they turned 30 would definitely help visualize if reaching 735+ goals is possible or not. This data was originally gathered in 2015, Messi's numbers are up to date.
Romário is the only player with over 700 goals that scored more goals after his 30s (18%) than before. Actually, no players that finished their careers with over 500 goals managed to score more after their 30s than before, which makes Romário's feat even more absurd.
Pelé, on the other hand, scored 60% less goals after his 30s. Gerd Müller had a respectable 24% drop on his scoring ratio, still managing to achieve 735 official goals before retiring. Puskas, Hugo Sánchez and Di Stéfano all achieved insignificant drops on their scoring abilities after turning 30. The same can't be said about Eusébio and Zico.
Looking at players that scored 500+ goals, like Messi, the best case scenario scoring 18% more goals, like Romário, which would bring Messi's total tally to 1180+ goals, an unlikely outcome to say the least. If Messi experiences a drop as hard as Pelé (60% decrease), he'd reach 710+ goals, which wouldn't get him on the top five.
In more sensible comparisons, if Messi scores 48% less on his 30s than he did on his 20s, just like Eusébio, he would reach 770+ goals, which would not only get him on the Top 5, but most likely making him overtake Romário as the most notorious goalscorer, only behind Bican.
Messi has scored so many goals by the age of 29, that after looking into what the most prolific goalscorers of all time have achieved on their thirties, it's safe to say he'll reach at least 700 official goals before retiring, and the mythical 800 isn't actually that far-fetched.
The rest of table reveals many interesting facts about players not named Lionel Andres Messi Cuccittini:
-Biggest scoring drops after their 30s: Pelé (60%), Maradona (52%), Eusébio (48%), Cruyff (46%), Shevchenko (46%) and Ronaldo Nazário (33%).
-Maradona was clearly focused on his vices and dealings off pitch and interests away from the pitch by the time he was 30.
-Eusébio was a player that heavily relied on his pace and strength, so his decline after 32 doesn't come as a surprise.
-Cruyff was more of a lightweight player, and getting weaker with age hurt his overall game.
-Shevchenko, just like Eusébio, went through physical decline.
-Ronaldo Nazário wasn't the same after his second knee tendon operation, and his last great moment as a footballer was the 2002 World Cup.
-Best scoring ratio improvement after their thirties: Di Natale and Zlatan (90%), Keane (51%), Aduriz (60%) and Pizarro (34%).
-Zlatan's time in Ligue 1 has helped his scoring record, but doesn't diminish his legacy.
-Di Natale was incredible. For someone to score 90% more goals after their 30s, playing at one of the toughest leagues in the planet that is Serie A.
-Keane enjoyed his time in the MLS, while Aduriz became a feared striker since joining Athletic Bilbao, and Pizarro has proven time and time again why he's one of the most underrated players to have ever graced the Bundesliga.
-Players like Henry, Raúl, David Villa and Nistelrooy had a 15-20% drop on their scoring ratios isn't bad at all. All of them have scored 350+ goals, and such a small drop is very much acceptable.
-Barring Shevchenko (46% drop), most recently retired or still active great players all had noticeable scoring ratios after their thirties.
-Larsson, Zlatan, Keane, Del Piero, Drogba, Pizarro, Luca Toni, Totti, Di Natale and Aduriz all scored more goals after their thirties, and Eto'o, Forlan and Klose all had sizable drops.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
WRITTEN BY: Rafael Hernández
A die hard Barcelona fan since the Joan Gaspart years, Rafael has seen the best and worst of his club. One of the Grup 14 founders, currently overlooking and coordinating the group's strategy. Rafael’s also a football journalist and entrepreneur.