The Argentine sat out Barca’s last league clash but returned on Sunday and helped deliver a vital win for the under-performing Catalans.
Lionel Messi made his 500th La Liga appearance and 750th in all competitions for Barcelona in Sunday’s meeting with Huesca after returning to Ronald Koeman’s starting line-up.
Messi missed Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Eibar after he was given an extended break over Christmas to nurse an ankle problem.
However, Koeman confirmed on Saturday that the 33-year-old had trained on during the week, and Messi subsequently returned to Barca’s starting XI for a landmark outing at Estadio El Alcoraz.
While he wasn’t able to mark the milestone with a goal, the Argentine did provide an assist for Frenkie de Jong as Barca recorded a much-needed 1-0 victory.
Messi’s 500 league appearances for Barca is five short of the club record held by former team-mate Xavi, who also holds the record for all-time appearances for the Blaugrana with 767.
Xavi’s total is 17 more than Messi’s current tally of 750, including Sunday’s game.
He is only the second player, and the first born outside of Spain, to reach the landmark for Barca, with Andres Iniesta completing the podium having made 442 La Liga appearances during his time at Camp Nou.
The record for the most matches ever played in La Liga is held by former goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, with 662 games under his belt for Athletic Club, Barca and Valencia.
Barca made the trip to Huesca unbeaten in five league matches, but they had drawn two of their last three and entered the game 13 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who benefited from a last-minute winner from Luis Suarez to beat Alaves earlier on Sunday.
Messi was sorely missed last week, when he watched from the stands as the Catalans were held 1-1 at home to Eibar to fall further off the pace at the top of the table.
And while Sunday’s win trims the deficit to 10, Barca’s title hopes already seem extremely faint after they surrendered the crown to Real Madrid in 2019-20 having led going into the coronavirus-imposed season recess in March.