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Lionel Messi paid an emotional tribute to his former club and international teammate Javier Mascherano after equalling his Argentina record.
Messi won his 147th cap for the Argentine national side on Tuesday – equalling the record set by Mascherano three years ago at the 2018 World Cup.
The two players were teammates for Argentina across 13 years while they also played alongside each other at Barcelona between 2010 and 2018, where they won a plethora of titles.
Messi’s latest cap came in a narrow 1-0 victory over Paraguay in the Copa America, when Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez scored the game’s only goal early in proceedings.
Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi were long-term teammates for Argentina and Barcelona
It means that the Barcelona star is now both Argentina’s joint-most capped player of all time and also the top scorer in the team’s history, netting 73 goals for his nation.
The win over Paraguay was not the best performance of Messi’s career – as he did not have a direct involvement in the goal, having scored one and assisted another in Argentina’s opening two matches of this summer’s tournament.
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Argentina's next match is against Bolivia, where the 33-year-old is set to win his 148 international cap to make him the outright record holder of the title.
Messi wrote on Instagram, alongside a picture of him celebrating the winning goal: “Another important victory to continue growing.
“I am proud to have been able to wear the blue and white as many times as my friend Masche (@mascherano14) whom I love very much, and who I have always respected and admired.”
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Messi’s first cap for his nation came almost 16 years ago, when he came on as a substitute in an international friendly match against Hungary on 17 August 2005.
That debut will forever be remembered for the Barcelona star being sent off almost instantly after coming onto the pitch, as he elbowed his Hungarian opponent Vilmos Vanczak.
Mascherano made a grand total of 334 appearances for the Catalan giants between 2010 and 2018, enjoying a remarkably successful time at the Camp Nou – winning a total of 19 trophies including two Champions League titles and five La Liga titles.
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Nicknamed "El Jefecito" ("The Little Chief"), he was primarily a holding midfield player whose role shifted in the latter years of his career, when he was often deployed as a central defender.
Mascherano took to social media to write, accompanied by a photo of him alongside Messi for the Argentine team: "Congratulations Leo for having reached the record appearances for Argentina.
"Nobody better than you to continue growing the legend and be the player with the most appearances in our National Team.
"Congratulations to the whole team for the victory and many more!"
Messi and Mascherano are two of six players to accumulate over 100 caps for Argentina, with Javier Zanetti (143), Roberto Ayala (114), Angel Di Maria (107) and Diego Simeone (103) also in that exclusive club.