The only thing trustworthy about throughout this annus horribilis for the stumbling giants is that Lionel Messi is still breaking records.

On Saturday, the 33-year-old Argentine scored his 643rd competitive objective for Barcelona’s first string. That matched Pelé’s all-time record of goals with one club, set during his 18-year career with Santos in Brazil. Perhaps. Record-keeping in the various Brazilian sub-leagues was unstable throughout Pelé’s period, extending from 1956 through 1974.

All the exact same, Pelé acknowledged Messi on Instagram. “Congratulations on your historic record, Lionel,” he wrote. “But above all, congratulations on your gorgeous career at Barcelona.” The record is, after all, as much a mark of efficiency and durability as it is of loyalty. In spite of his efforts last summer season, and several rumored close calls in earlier years, Messi has actually never left the club that snapped up a shy, undersized 13-year-old kid from Argentina 20 years ago.

On Tuesday, Messi broke the record by scoring Barcelona’s 3rd objective in a 3-0 romp over Valladolid, his 644th competitive objective for the club.

The newly broken record, to tack onto Messi’s phonebook-thick stack of other records, undoubtedly dredges up the worn out argument about who is better. Is it Messi? Or Pelé? (This columnist is irretrievably on the record in its belief that Messi is the video game’s greatest player ever.).

However as a measurement of their respective traditions, this particular record fails.

Messi’s objectives were mostly scored in two of the world’s toughest competitions: La Liga and the Champions League – he has 451 in the previous and 118 in the latter. Pelé’s, on the other hand, came mainly in São Paulo’s regional league, the Campeonato Paulista (470 ), and the Brazilian Série A (100 ). A mere 17 of his goals was available in the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League.

Certainly, Série A didn’t have as much trouble keeping skill in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s as it has in the last couple of years. So there is no arguing with that century of goals, tallied in 173 video games. It’s the Paulista goals that are a tad suspicious. The Paulista was, and is, a sub-competition. And while it included several other juggernauts of Brazilian soccer, the competition was mainly quite meek.

Pelé was the Paulista top scorer a spectacular 11 times. However a little context is required here. In 1957, the first time he won it, Santos scored an incredible 81 objectives in 19 matches – more than 4 per video game. The next year, it scored 143 times in 38 video games, nearly matching the scoring clip from the year prior to. In 1959, Santos bagged an unreasonable 151 objectives. That wasn’t at all irregular for Pelé’s team because period.

Which is all to say that goals came really quickly. That doesn’t mean Pelé does not deserve credit for them, or that his team wasn’t transcendent. After all, Pelé’s Santos won 10 Paulistas, six Série A titles and the Libertadores two times. It simply implies comparisons to Messi’s tally are complicated.

Because, conversely, Messi has actually been surrounded by all-time fantastic gamers and matured under a generational coach who set up a system that revolved around him, providing him some advantage over Pelé.

This is the main problem in comparing gamers from various ages – the difficulty in laying their stats side by side, in particular. The conditions weren’t the very same; the competitions weren’t the exact same; sports science and methods weren’t the very same; the video game wasn’t the same.

The knock on Messi is that he has actually never won the World Cup, whereas Pelé did 3 times and compatriot Diego Maradona did as soon as. The knock on Pelé is that he never played in Europe, where the finest club soccer occurred both then and now. The knock on Maradona is that his prime was much shorter than that of those other 2, owing to his hedonistic lifestyle. The knock on Cristiano Ronaldo is that he hasn’t won the World Cup either and, well, his place in the pantheon might be obscured rather by the impression that he isn’t especially likable.

So how do you parse all of that? Simply like choosing between Messi and Ronaldo as his generation’s best refers taste, so too is blessing the best to ever play the video game.

Certainly, records like the variety of profession goals for a single club aren’t much help. They are simply as approximate as a signifier of greatness as it would be to declare that Ronaldo’s goals actually count for more than Messi’s do since they came in the English, Spanish and Italian leagues, demonstrating that he might dominate all of them.

So Messi got yet another record and that’s good for Messi. However that’s really all it is.