You were expecting biology while I’m on a trip? Sorry, but you get food, beer and football for another week.
Yes, I didn’t call it “soccer” this time because some nit-pickers (who always begin their posts by saying, “I don’t mean to nitpick but . . . “), would patiently explain to me that I must call it football. But I digress. On October 30 our resident football expert, Seamus Malin, named Lionel Messi the best football player of all time. This is no snap judgement: Seamus broadcast football for 40 years, and has seen all the greats of our era.
As reported by the New York Times, and as most of you football buffs know, Lionel Messi of Barcelona is closing in on a long-standing record:
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 not be challenged.
Messi’s contributions not only helped Barcelona maintain its 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.
Remember, too, that Messi is only 25 years old! The Times ponders whether Müller’s record might be stronger, given that he played in fewer games, but such comparisons are subjective at best.
Despite his lack of bulk, the 5-foot-7 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 5-9.
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.
Let’s forget about the comparison and just see some of their highlights: it’s a traditional American custom to watch sports after Thanksgiving dinner.
Lionel Messi (the goal beginning at 7:40 is unbelievable, reminiscent of Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final):