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A Decade of Dominance from Lionel Messi

An eventful decade in football has come to an end. Multiple dynasties have come and gone, new players have carved out careers, and legends have retired—but there is nobody who has left a more enduring mark on the 2010s than Lionel Messi. The Argentine has had the most dominant, emphatic, and downright ridiculous decade in the history of football.

Rising Star

Lionel Messi was already a well-known star at the end of the 2000s—he won the 2009 Ballon d’Or—but in the following 10 years, he would firmly establish himself as one of the best players to ever play the game.

The Argentine international finished the 2009-10 season with 47 goals in 53 games as Barcelona won La Liga. That was only the beginning. In the 2010-11 season, Messi recorded 53 goals and 24 assists as Barça won La Liga and the Champions League.

The Best

It was after the 2011-12 season when we started to wonder if Messi was actually human. He scored a nigh-on incomprehensible 73 goals in just 60 games, all while assisting a further 29 goals. Incredibly, Barça was pipped to the title by Real Madrid that season.

Messi was so dominant that he won four consecutive Ballon d’Ors between 2009 and 2012. The only person to come close to this accomplishment was Michel Platini, who won it three times in a row in the early ’80s.

In 2012-13, Barça reclaimed the La Liga throne and Messi kept on breaking records. Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, Messi scored an absurd 200 goals in 202 games. But he is more than just a goalscorer. Take away Messi’s goals and he would still be one of the most productive playmakers in Europe.

Iconic Rivalry

It is almost impossible to talk about Messi without mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo. A special chapter of Lionel’s decade was his rivalry with Real Madrid and the Portuguese player. (No, CR7 fans, we haven’t forgotten about his historic decade either.)

Some of Messi’s most remarkable accomplishments were fueled from his ruthless battles against Ronaldo and a strong-willed Madrid side. 

The last 10 years were Messi’s, but many of his successes are the result of Ronaldo pushing the Argentine to his limits. They have accomplished so many of the same things, in such different styles, that we’re lucky to be alive during their reign as two of the best players in the history of the game.


Despite getting older and playing fewer games, Messi is still terrifyingly consistent—plus, he has added free kicks to his repertoire. The four-time Champions League winner and ten-time La Liga champion has scored 165 goals since the 2016-17 season.

Today, he will finish this historic decade with 579 goals. He has scored 50+ goals in 9 out of 10 years and collected half of the Ballon d’Or trophies presented between 2010-20.

Now aged 32, Messi’s time at the top may soon come to an end. It’s hard to imagine how any player will be able to match what he has achieved in the past decade. But records are meant to be broken, and we can’t wait to see what the 2020s will bring.

Illustration by @inakivector.

This story was featured in one of our newsletters. You can see the full email here.