Messi just eight goals away from striking down Müller's record
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:With two controlled swings of the deadliest left foot in soccer, Lionel Messi moved two steps closer to breaking a 40-year-old goal-scoring record that, until recently, looked as if it would never be challenged.
Messi’s contributions not only helped Barcelona maintain their unbeaten start to the Spanish league season – his two goals setting up Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Real Zaragoza – but also propelled him to within seven goals of matching Gerd Müller’s world record for goals in a calendar year.
Müller, the great striker who won a World Cup, European Championship and four West German titles during his career with West Germany and Bayern Munich, scored 85 goals in 1972. Messi, with a maximum of eight matches left in 2012, has 78.
His most recent strikes were typical Messi goals, if there is such a thing for a player with such a broad range of skills and few obvious flaws. The first goal came after he exchanged passes with his team-mate Jordi Alba, before taking a perfect touch and almost casually clipping the ball into the net. For his second, which came after assisting Alex Song on Barcelona’s second goal, Messi made a difficult skill look simple, curling the ball into the net from 20 yards .
As Messi, the 25-year-old Argentina forward, closes on Müller’s record, it is fair to ask whose achievement is greater? In terms of the number of games needed to reach the milestone, Messi – whose appearance on Saturday was his 61st of the year – has already exceeded Müller’s 60 matches from 1972.
If Messi requires until his final match – a league game at Real Valladolid on December 22nd – to break Müller’s record, it will have taken him nine more matches to surpass Müller, who was also in his mid-20s when he set the mark.
But it is not as straightforward as suggesting that the number of appearances alone prove Müller’s achievement was the more impressive, particularly because 12 of his goals in 1972 came in an obscure and short-lived competition, the DFB-Ligapokal – or German League Cup.
With the Olympic Games in Munich that year, the start of the 1972-73 Bundesliga season was delayed until mid-September, so the league cup was created to fill the gap and provide teams with competitive matches to help generate income.
Bayern Munich did not initially take the competition seriously, sending out a weaker team in their opening match, with most of the teams superstars – Müller included – absent. This enraged a crowd of 10,000, who had paid to watch Bayern’s celebrated first-team players. A photographer even filed a fraud lawsuit against the club.
So for the rest of the inaugural competition Bayern picked their star players and Müller scored 12 goals in five games, including four goals against the second-division regional league team, Hof (The DFB-Ligapokal was scrapped after the first year and not reintroduced until 1997, when it was played as a preseason competition before being abolished again in 2007.)