STATS UNBELIEVABLE: Lionel Messi by the numbers

SportBy Karl Doyle
THE LION' KING: Messi is close to untouchable in the Champions League
THE LION' KING: Messi is close to untouchable in the Champions League

The countdown is well and truly on for the eagerly-awaited clash between the seemingly unstoppable Barcelona and the ‘grand old lady’ of European football, Juventus, in Saturday night’s Champions League Final in Berlin.

However, among the star-studded starting XIs for the showpiece final one name stands head and shoulders above everyone else.

And that is Lionel Messi, of course.

Lauded, and quite rightly so, around the world for his uncanny talents with the pigskin he even has opposing keeper for the big showdown, Gigi Buffon, purring with admiration as he described him as ‘an extra-terrestrial who plays with us humans’.

When Jose Mourinho masterminded Inter's triumph over Barcelona en route to the final in 2010 he put his trust in a deep-lying defence that denied Messi space, and the tactics worked.

But that was a once-off, it would seem.

Since then teams have tried to play a high line against the Catalans in an attempt to thwart them (fail) and have employed enforcers to try to man-mark the Argentine wizard (uber fail).

So, just how do you stop the mercurial Messi? It’s not going to be easy for the Italian giants – as these stats reflect:

The Lionel lowdown...
* Champions League top scorer: 77 (joint with Cristiano Ronaldo)
* Leading goalscorer in La Liga history with 286 goals in 315 matches.
* Top scorer in one season of official matches: 73 goals in 2011/12 (50 in La Liga, 14 in Champions League, 3 in Cup, 3 in the Spanish Supercup, 1 in the European Supercup and 2 in the Clubs World Cup.
Top goalscorer in a calendar year: 96 goals in 2012. 84 for Barça (59 in the Liga, 13 in the Champions League, 5 in the Spanish Cup, 2 in the Spanish Supercup and 5 in friendly matches) and 12 for Argentina.
* Barcelona’s top goalscorer: 412
* Most goals in a La Liga season: 50
* Most consecutive La Liga matches scored in: 21
* Most World Player of the Year (Ballon d’Or) titles: 4
* Most goals in a single European Cup game: 5 (joint with Luiz Adriano)
* Most European Cup top scorer awards: 4 (with Gerd Muller)
* Most goals in Clasico matches against Real Madrid: 21
* Most goals in Club World Cup: 4 (held jointly with Denilson)
* Longest scoring run in La Liga (33 goals in 21 consecutive games (2012/13).
* Top scorer in home matches in a league season (35 goals at the Camp Nou in Liga 2011/12).
* Top scorer in away matches in a league season (24 goals in Liga 2012/13).
Lionel Messi - 77 (98)
Cristiano Ronaldo - 77 (115)
Raul - 71 (142)
Ruud van Nistelrooy - 56 (73)
Thierry Henry - 50 (112)
Alfredo Di Steffano - 49 (58)
Andrey Shevchenko - 48 (100)
Eusebio - 46 (65)
Filipo Inzaghi - 46 (81)
Didier Drogba - 44 (92)