Lionel Messi breaks 71-year record at CONMEBOL Copa America 2024

  • Messi appeared at six Copa America with Argentina.
  • Inter Miami's wizard broke the record for tournament appearances.
  • Argentina is one of the favorites to win Copa 2024 with what might be Messi's farewell.
Argentina v Canada - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024
Argentina v Canada - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024 / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

Lionel Messi has become the first player to appear the most in the world's oldest national team tournament (CONEMBOL Copa America). He broke the 71-year-old record held by the historic Chilean goalkeeper Sergio Livingstone, who had set the record in 1953. Messi started and played for 90 minutes in the opening match of the 48th edition of the tournament against Canada at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The Argentine reached 35 games across seven editions of the tournament.  

Messi debuted in the CONMEBOL Copa América 2007. He was just 20 years old when Alfio Basile called him up. During that tournament, he scored two goals in six matches and was eliminated by Brazil in the final. Messi started for Argentina in the final and got his first taste of the great South American rivalry in a major tournament in a 3-0 loss to Brazil. The Samba Boys had beaten Argentina on penalties in the 2004 final, and they were ruthless in their rematch three years later. 

2011, Sergio Batista called him up for the tournament on his home soil. He had an underwhelming performance, playing five games without scoring, and was knocked out in the quarterfinal by Uruguay. Four years later, at the pinnacle of his career at Barcelona, he was selected by Gerardo Martino for the (2015 and 2016) tournaments. Over those two editions, he scored six goals in 12 games and was beaten by Chile twice in back-to-back finals.  


Messi has been a part of Lionel Scaloni’s (2019, 2021, and 2024) squad. In the 2019 edition, he played five games, scored 1 goal, and was knocked out in the semi-final by the eventual winner Brazil. Messi finally got his hands on the coveted Copa America trophy in 2021, where he played six games and scored four goals, lifting his first major trophy with the national team and his country's first in 28 years. That victory lifted the weight of expectation off his shoulders and more than likely acted as a catalyst for Argentina’s FIFA World Cup victory in Qatar 18 months later, with Messi finally getting his hands on the one trophy that has eluded Argentina since 1986 and the one he had craved most. He has one game under his belt, the milestone game in the 2024 edition. He got numerous chances to get closer to the scoring record but muffed his chances. Messi is five goals away from breaking that record, held by his compatriot Norberto Méndez and Brazil's Zizinho, who have 17 goals in the competition's history. 

Along with the scoring record, Messi has his sights set on becoming the first player ever to be named the tournament's best player on three occasions. Messi won twice the Best Player of the Tournament award  (Chile in 2015 and Brazil in 2021). He can also become the first player to win consecutive tournaments.  

Argentina will next play Chile at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States, before rounding off their Group A fixtures against Peru in Miami.