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Lionel Messi sets La Liga assist record, ties European record

The Barcelona captain also capped off a record seventh Pichichi Trophy

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

On the day that Lionel Messi confirmed his record seventh Pichichi Trophy, the Barcelona star also broke La Liga’s all-time assist record and tied the record for the most assists in one season in Europe’s top five leagues, since Opta has tracked stats.

Messi gave his 21st assist of the season on a pass that was deflected but ultimately reached Ansu Fati, who scored. He had already tied the record for most assists coming into this game, when he registered his 20th and tied his former teammate, Xavi, for most assist in one La Liga season.

With his 21st assist, Messi set a new record and in the process tied the record for most assists in one season in the top five European leagues. Thomas Müller is joint-holder of that record, having registered 21 assists for Bayern Munich in this season’s Bundesliga.

Opta, the largest football stats company in the world, has tracked the assist stat since 2004.

Different sites use different metrics for tracking stats. counts deflected passes, rebounded shots that are turned in, or penalties won which are then scored by a teammate as assists, to name some examples. However, Opta has a more strict definition that excludes all shots or penalties won. Opta considers only intentional passes that are not “heavily deflected” as assists.

Messi’s pass was deflected before reaching Fati, which led to some confusion. Many apps and sites that track stats, such as WhoScored and SofaScore, rely on Opta data. At first, SofaScore credited an assist to Messi. However, the app then confirmed it was not given.

Other apps and sites that use Opta stats showed no assist for Messi today. However, upon review, the assist was credited on all Opta-derived stat platforms.

It rests upon what exactly a “heavily deflected” pass is. While his pass was surely deflected, it’s a matter of opinion whether it was heavy or not. It seems Opta in the end decided the deflection was not heavy, and therefore credited Messi with the assist. Something to consider for the future.

Messi also finishes the season as the leader in goals+assists in the top four leagues (bearing in mind the fifth, France’s Ligue 1, ended early). Players from other leagues may still surpass him, as there are still some games left, with Lazio’s Ciro Immobile the best positioned.

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