Messi raises the bar to a height only he can reach
The seven highest points totals ever all belong to the last four years; in 2010-11, Cristiano Ronaldo broke the all-time record for league goals in a season with 41 only to be broken again by Messi, who got 50 last season.
Meanwhile, one of Spain’s most important football statisticians insists that Messi has 85 because a free-kick that the referee judged to have gone straight in against Mallorca might, he says, have been touched by Alexis on the way through, even though Alexis said it was not.
And Marca also claims he is on 85, judging that his recent goal against Athletic Bilbao should in fact be credited as an own goal by Fernando Amorebieta (the referee officially ruled it was Messi’s goal) – no matter, they add, because it turns out that one of Müller’s goals was also an own goal, meaning that he has got the record this morning. On 85, not 86.
But officially, it is 86. Or, to quote the cover of El Mundo Deportivo this morning: ¡86! In its simplicity, the headline says much. About Messi’s achievement and our impotence. What more can you say? There are few words that can be employed to define Messi now. “Cristiano Ronaldo is the best of the humans,” Gerard Piqué said not long ago, “but Messi is an extraterrestrial.”
On Sunday night, Piqué tweeted just two words in homage of his team-mates: “Leo” and “Messi”. There could be no greater praise. At 25, Messi has already forced everyone to use up all the superlatives. There’s little left to do except make words up or just start swearing. Few reactions do Messi justice like a: ‘f***k me!’ “Don’t try to write about him, don’t try describe him,” said Pep Guardiola. “Watch him.”
The trouble is, you have to write about him. Not least because the records keep falling. Jorge Valdano once claimed that they would have to dedicate a whole chapter of the Guinness Book of Records to Raúl. With Messi, they really might.
It can seem swifter to list the records he hasn’t got than the ones he has. The records provide excuse and evidence but they also provide obligation. They are a reason, a duty, to focus on him once; excellence alone is no longer enough. But you’ll never really do him justice.
It’s been like that for some time now: even if it took some people a while to see it, he has been the best for years. Pretty much since he stopped getting injured, in fact – another reason why the sight of him going off on a stretcher on Wednesday had such an impact.
Barcelona’s all-time top scorer at just 24, amongst his goals in 2012 are five against Bayer Leverkusen. A one-off, perhaps but they set him on course to finish as the European Cup’s top scorer. For the fourth year in a row. You want him to do it in a hard league? How about the Champions League?