The Argentine picked up the European Golden Shoe in Barcelona on Monday for his 50 goals last term and is now homing in on another astonishing recordANALYSIS
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
There was a star-studded cast. Barcelona pair Carles Puyol and Xavi were there, along with sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella, the Albiceleste's World Cup-winning coach Carlos Bilardo and a selection of Spanish sportsmen and women. Among them were basketball star Juan Carlos Navarro, taekwondo gold medalist Joel Gonzalez and Olympic swimming silver medalist Mireia Belmonte.
But, they were all there to see one man - Lionel Messi. The Argentine was picking up yet another award, his second Golden Shoe, after netting a continental-high 50 league goals in 2011-12. His half-century make him the highest scorer in the history of the prize and he is the 10th man to win it twice, since its inauguration in 1962.
With 73 strikes for Barcelona and Argentina in 2012, the 25-year-old could now go on to claim the all-time mark in a calendar year, which is currently held by German great Gerd Muller.
The Bayern Munich legend hit 85 goals for club and country in 1972, but has already seen his mark of 67 domestic strikes in a single season beaten by Messi last term, as the Argentine racked up 73 for Barca in all competitions in 2011-12.
Messi is currently 12 goals adrift of Muller in terms of the calendar year, but with the possibility of another 15 games for Barca and one for Argentina left in what remains of 2012. At his current scoring rate, he is comfortably on course to claim the record outright by the time the winter break comes around.
And one man he seems certain to surpass is Pele. The Brazilian managed 75 goals in just 53 games for Santos and the Selecao in 1959, but is now just two clear of the Argentine - a player he once told to watch his goals on a DVD.
On Monday, Messi claimed to be honoured to be in such company and, despite their stunning success in the game, the other two men must surely agree.
Later on in the same day, the Argentine was named on the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or and was immediately installed as favourite to claim his fourth Golden Ball in a row.
And, if he can do it by breaking yet another record, that will be quite some year for the 25-year-old, who is also awaiting the birth of his first-born child at the moment and admitted: "My goal celebration will change after next week."
Thiago Messi is set to arrive in the coming days, but Messi claimed "chaos" would ensue if he were to be born on Tuesday, the birthday of one Diego Armando Maradona. Laughter erupted in the room, but the final word was left to Bilardo, who was asked to compare Messi to his former captain and inspiration from 1986. "You can't compare different eras," he said. "Maradona was the best then, but Messi is the best now."
And he has the goals to prove it.
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