There is seemingly no limit to what Lionel Messi can do, nor what records he looks capable of breaking.
The Barcelona man’s form this season has prompted comparisons with greats of the game, most notably after his five goals against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, with many claiming he is already the finest to have ever graced the game.
Cesar Rodriguez endured a bad week on the pitch back in March despite it being almost 50 years since he laced up his boots for the Catalan club, as first Barcelona historians revised his record tally to 232 goals before Lionel Messi replaced him as Barca’s greatest scorer of all time with a hat-trick against Granada.
Messi has been regularly compared to Maradona and Pele this season but perhaps the player he bears most similarity to, at least in front of goal, is the free-scoring Gerd Muller.
With plenty of other records beckoning the diminutive Argentinian this season, Messi will have one eye on perhaps the greatest record of all; Muller’s tally of 67 goals in a single season.
Messi’s brace against Real Zaragoza meant he became the first player since Muller to score 60 goals or more in a season, and now he is in with a chance of moving above Muller and even claiming 70 goals in a single campaign.
For 40 years Muller’s outrageous scoring in the 1972/73 season has appeared untouchable, with only Messi himself, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, looking capable of coming anywhere near ‘Der Bomber’ in recent years.
Muller’s achievements that season were in many ways the pinnacle of a career littered with awards and accolades.
Stocky and powerful, Muller was branded a ‘weightlifter’ by Bayern Munich coach Zlatko "Tschik" Cajkovsk when he joined the club in 1964 but soon became the main man for the German giants.
His 452 appearances for Bayern yielded an astonishing 398 goals while for his country he was equally prolific, bagging 68 goals in his 62 games for West Germany, including 10 goals in the 1970 World Cup. The man himself remembers his goal for West Germany against the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup final as the most important of his career, although his brace that helped Germany claim victory in the 1972 European Championships can’t be too far behind.
His time with Bayern coincided with the club’s most successful spell as they claimed three European Cup victories and four Bundesliga titles. In all four successful league campaigns, Muller was the Bundesliga top scorer.
Even Franz Beckenbauer, considered one of the greatest of all time, bows to Muller’s greatness: "Everything that FC Bayern has become is due to Gerd Muller and his goals," he once said.
While Muller won almost everything in the game and set numerous records, the one that looked like lasting the longest was his tally in the season of 1972/73.
36 league goals and 12 goals for his country amongst others helped contribute to his giant tally that season.
Now Messi is in with a chance of proving himself the greatest goalscorer in European football history.
This season, as well as his La Liga tally of 38, Messi has 14 goals in the Champions League, two in the Copa del Rey, three in the Spanish Super Cup, one in the European Super Cup and has also scored two at the Club World Cup.
With up to eleven games remaining, including two Champions League ties against Chelsea and a potential final in that competition where he could conceivably break Muller’s record, Messi has the record well and truly in his sights.
The 24-year-old has the chance to put himself in the record books this season by bettering the tally set by a true great of the game. He needs eight more to move into a league of his own, a tally he is expected to achieve with ten games remaining.
If he does manage to better Muller’s record, it is hard to envisage anyone breaking his record, unless he does so himself in the future.
Messi has the chance to guide Barcelona to a record fourth straight La Liga title, become the Champions League leading scorer for the fourth straight season – no other player has achieved that feat – and he has already bettered the best ever tally in European competition with his 14 goals on the continent this season.
However, if he bypasses Muller’s record, it would surely be the greatest feat of his already spectacular season.
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