Soccer

Messi equals Pele's all-time single club scoring tally in draw with Valencia

Lionel Messi tied Pele's record of 643 goals for a single club on Saturday but was unable to help Barcelona beat Valencia in La Liga as they had to settle for a 2-2 home draw.

No. 643 for Barcelona star pulls him level with Brazilian's historic milestone

Barcelona's Ronald Araujo (4) celebrates with Lionel Messi after the latter scored his 643rd goal to match Pele's record for most with a single club during Saturday's Spanish league match against Valencia CF. (Lluis Gene/AFP via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi has another individual scoring milestone, but he sure doesn't have a team that looks like a champion.

Messi equaled Pele's all-time club scoring tally on Saturday in a 2-2 draw with Valencia. His 643rd career goal for Barcelona since his 2004 debut matched Pele's tally for Santos from 1957-74.

Messi is Barcelona's and the Spanish league's all-time leading scorer. In January 2018, he became the most prolific scorer among Europe's top leagues when he reached 366 league goals, surpassing Gerd Mueller's Bundesliga mark of 365. Messi had already surpassed Gerd Mueller's single-year goal mark by scoring 86 times in 2012.

Pele congratulated the Argentina forward on social media: "Like you, I know what it's like to love wearing the same shirt every day. Like you, I know that there is nothing better than the place we feel at home.

"Congratulations on your historic record, Lionel," Pele added. "But above all, congratulations on your beautiful career at Barcelona. Stories like ours, of loving the same club for so long, unfortunately will be increasingly rare in football."

Pele's comments went right to the heart of Messi's uncertain situation at Barcelona.

Messi has yet to recant on his announcement last summer that he wanted to leave the club which is no longer the dominant force that he had done so much to forge over the past two decades. His contract expires in June, and he will be free to negotiate with other clubs come January.

The latest setback by Barcelona left Ronald Koeman's team in fifth place and eight points adrift of league leader Atletico Madrid, which got two goals by Luis Suarez to beat Elche 3-1.

Messi cancelled out Mouctar Diakhaby's opener for Valencia when he scored in first half injury time moments after Jaume Domenech saved his penalty shot. Jordi Alba recovered the rebound of Domenech's save and crossed it to the far post where Messi headed it in.

Central defender Ronald Araujo scored his first career goal for Barcelona with an acrobatic kick for 2-1 at Camp Nou in the 53rd.

But Jose Gaya set up Maxi Gomez to hit back for Valencia in the 69th and split the points.

Growing Pains

Koeman attributed the slip to the youth of his team, which he is trying to build around a veteran core. Koeman gave consecutive starts to Araujo and Óscar Mingueza, both 21, and entrusted playmaking duties to 18-year-old Pedro "Pedri" Gonzalez. Sergino Dest, at 20, has become his undisputed starter at right back with Sergio Roberto injured.

"The age of some players can explain why there is a certain inconsistency because consistency comes from playing together for a long time," Koeman said. "We lacked control and lost too many balls in defence sometimes. I saw my team have doubts."

A botched marking scheme made it easier for Diakhaby to head in Valencia's opener in the 29th when Antoine Griezmann — who is significantly shorter than the centre back — lost his mark of him during a corner kick.

"We don't have many tall players to defend their tallest ones... but we cannot leave anyone wide open," Koeman said. "We have to at least be there, be engaged."

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