Messi just eight goals away from striking down Müller's record
Strength of schedule is one factor in the difference between the totals of Messi and Müller. But there is also the issue of the globalisation of the top European leagues. While Müller scored 13 goals at international level and 11 in European club matches in the European Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup, 42 of his strikes in 1972 came in 34 Bundesliga matches at a time when the top soccer talent was spread a lot more thinly across the world.
So far this year, Messi has scored 50 goals in 33 games in the elite competition that is the Spanish league. So while he has the help of a world-class supporting cast – notably the midfield combination of Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez – he also regularly comes up against some of the game’s best defenders. Of his other 28 goals, Messi has scored 12 for Argentina, including a hat-trick against Brazil in a friendly match in June; 11 in the Champions League; three in the Spanish Cup; and two in the Spanish Super Cup.
Drawing comparisons between eras is never an exact science, though, and Messi and Müller have much in common, namely their ability to score often. Both have been the leading scorer in the European Cup (now the Champions League) four times.
18 goals in eight games
In March, Messi joined Müller, now 67, as the 11th player to have scored five times in a single European Cup or Champions League match.
That feat, which Messi accomplished in a 7-1 victory against Bayer Leverkusen, came in the middle of an 18-goal scoring run over eight games, including four goals against Valencia and three against Granada.
Despite his lack of bulk, the 5ft 7in Messi bullies defenders with his grace and unrivaled close control of the ball, which at times make it appear as if the ball is glued to Messi’s feet. By contrast, Müller was a squat and powerful 5ft 9in.
The cleverness of Messi’s play is matched by a lethal accuracy in front of goal; Messi, who scored only one goal in his first 14 games for Barcelona, now regularly shatters scoring records.
In addition to his five Spanish championships, three Champions Leagues titles and numerous individual awards, Messi has already smashed Müller’s record of 67 goals in a single European season – scoring 73 times during the 2011-12 season. He is also Barcelona’s career scoring leader.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova recently said of Messi:
“His goal tally is spectacular. It takes other great players seven or eight seasons to score the amount of goals he scores in one season.”
But for all the records, there is one left to break. With eight more goals in his final eight games, Messi can achieve perhaps the ultimate goal-scoring feat, starting today against Spartak Moscow.
New York Times