Messi beats Muller's goal record, but is he the best ever?

Lionel Messi

Barcelona striker is at the peak of his powers, but he needs to win the World Cup

LAST UPDATED AT 12:38 ON Mon 10 Dec 2012

BARCELONA striker Lionel Messi surpassed Gerd Muller's record for goals scored in a calendar year as he notched is 85th and 86th goals of 2012 against Real Betis on Sunday, and the tributes have been flooding in for a player who has cemented his reputation as one of the greatest ever footballing talents.

The Argentinian forward who went into the match one goal behind the German's tally scored both Barcelona's goals in their 2-1 victory to break the German's record, set in 1972. The goals also saw Messi go clear of Cesar Rodriguez as Barcelona's all-time leading goalscorer in La Liga, and his tally now stands at 194. He is already Barca's greatest-ever scorer with 281 goals to his name.

So far this year Messi has scored 74 goals for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina, in a total of 66 games.

"The statistics are staggering, the milestones apparently endless and the performances continue to defy belief," says Ben Smith of the BBC. "At 25, Lionel Messi is reaching the peak of his powers. It is difficult to see how he can improve having found a rate of scoring few thought possible and married it to an incredible level of consistency.

"The debate about whether he is the greatest of them all can wait, but the phenomenal speed with which he is breaking records cannot be ignored."

The Guardian described it as "another milestone in his phenomenal career" and noted that he was now firm favourite to win a fourth successive world player of the year award next month, if he does that, too, would be a record.

"Messi could hang up his boots tomorrow and still be proud of a career right up there with the best we've ever seen," said Goal.com. "Indeed, he may well be the greatest the game has ever witnessed. At least there’s no denying that one could legitimately argue the fact. And he’s not done yet; far from it."

But there is one thing missing from his CV however. "The debate over whether he is the best player of all time will rage on and perhaps will only be settled if Messi achieves what soccer greats Pele and Diego Maradona managed with Brazil and Argentina respectively - winning the World Cup," noted The Independent.

"The question is often posed as to whether Messi would be so prolific if he didn't play alongside Barca team mates like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas and there is certainly nobody of that calibre in the current Argentina team."

According to The Times his achievement helped cement his "status as one of the greatest players of all time" but not everyone would have been applauding.

"Messi's feat was tough on Radamel Falcao, who would have taken the headlines on any other night after his five-goal haul in Atletico's crushing 6-0 home win over Deportivo la Coruna," added the paper. · 

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