By Ben Morse, CNN
(CNN) — Lionel Messi has had quite the season for Argentina.
The 35-year-old led his country to the 2022 World Cup title in Qatar last year, arguably the crowning triumph in one of the greatest football careers.
And on Thursday, Messi enjoyed another landmark moment by scoring his fastest ever goal.
Messi curled home an exquisite left-footed strike from the edge of the box just 79 seconds into Argentina’s friendly against Australia in Beijing – the quickest of his professional career, per South American football’s governing body, CONMEBOL.
According to sports data group Gracenote, Messi has scored in every minute of a football game, apart from the opening 60 seconds. He has scored the most goals (16) in the 87th minute.
“Messi has given us everything as a footballer, it’s a pleasure to see him play. He’s on another level,” Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez said after the game.
Argentina eventually beat Australia 2-0 with Real Betis defender Germán Pezzella doubling La Albiceleste’s lead in the second half.
“We always enjoy being with the national team,” Messi said afterwards. “It was complicated playing because of the heat and humidity, but above all we’ll continue with the same idea.
“Now there are World Cup qualifiers and the Copa America, it’s getting too ahead of yourself thinking about the next World Cup. You have to enjoy what you’ve achieved.
“We have to think about what’s coming, a new cycle is beginning. This continues, we can’t just sit back on what has already happened. We need to enjoy every reunion.”
The game had offered the Socceroos the opportunity to enact a modicum of revenge on Argentina after they lost 2-1 to the eventual world champion in the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, with Messi also scoring a brilliant goal on that occasion.
Despite struggling with his club team Paris Saint-Germain last season, Thursday’s goal continues Messi’s excellent form for the Argentina national team.
He finished the second top scorer at last year’s World Cup with seven goals and also provided three assists.
The game was played at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing in front of thousands of adoring fans, many purchasing tickets just for the opportunity to watch Messi play.
During the match, videos on social media show a fan evading security personnel before hugging Messi.
Large numbers of fans have turned out to catch a glimpse of the forward, who last visited China in 2017 with his former club Barcelona.
He received a rapturous welcome from fans Saturday after landing in Beijing ahead of the friendly against Australia.
“Messi” soon became the top trending topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo, while video footage showed hundreds of fans swarming the team’s hotel entrance in the hope of catching a glimpse of their idol.
The seven-time Balon d’Or winner announced last Wednesday he would be joining Major League Soccer outfit Inter Miami after his contract with PSG runs out this summer. The blockbuster news reportedly caused ticket prices to soar nearly 1,000% for some games in the United States.
Argentina will next travel to Jakarta for a friendly against Indonesia on June 19.
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