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SPECIAL REPoRtSPECIAL REPoRtC6 C7Gulf News | Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | gulfnews.com HHHH gulfnews.com | Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | Gulf News
A goalscorer beyond compareRecord-breaking Lionel Messi doesnt just score lots of goals, he does so with style, making him the most complete goal-getter of all time
Scoring goals, according to many football players and pundits, is the hardest skill in the game.Indeed, even the most prolific of strikers on Planet Earth are, at times, afflicted by the sudden and inexplicable in-ability to hit the back of the net.
But in the rarefied realms of Planet Fantasy Football, the sole preserve of record-break-ing Barcelona star Lionel Messi, frustrations such as goal-scor-ing droughts and fallow peri-ods involving losses of form are non-existent. Instead, in Mes-sis utopian universe, there are only torrents of goals and a rich harvest of consistently incred-ible performances.
For, to paraphrase Shake-speare, if goals be the food of football, Messi wants excess of them. It is this glorious greed for goal-scoring which led to him surpassing German legend Gerd Mullers 40-year-old world re-cord of 85 goals in a calendar year a tally so seemingly un-touchable that few football afi-cionados had heard of it on Sunday with a brace in Barcelo-nas 2-1 win at Real Betis. Messi now has 86 goals to his name in 2012 with potentially three games left to play before the year is out. No wonder Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, once said Messi was akin to a PlayStation player.
To further illustrate the scale of Messis extraordinary achieve-ment, the great Brazilian Pele is only third in this pantheon of great goal-getters with a mere 75 goals to his name in 1958.
Stylish and sublimeWhat makes Messis landmark
feat all the more special is that he is not an orthodox forward in the vein of Muller, who was chiefly renowned for his predatory pen-alty-box poaching.
Indeed, Messis goal-scoring repertoire is far more stylish and varied than the man who was known as Der Bomber the Argentine capable of making the net bulge in myriad ways unlike the more one-di-mensional German.
Through his own sublime skill the impossibly adhe-sive, scampering feet, light-ning-quick changes of control, breathtaking bursts of speed and slaloming runs the little magi-cian frequently fashions chances from which he himself can score.
One of his most memorable efforts, a stunning, mazy drib-ble from the halfway line ending in a sumptuous finish against Getafe in 2007, bore uncanny similarities to Diego Mara-donas legendary strike for Ar-gentina against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final. It was arguably an even greater effort, given that the final touch to Maradonas tour de force was applied via a sliding tackle from Englands Terry Butcher.
Like the great Bayern Munich and West Germany striker of the 1960s and 70s Muller, Messi is not averse to prodding home
so-called ugly goals from close range. He is deadly from outside the penalty box, too, as Arsenal fans will recall after he lashed in a ferocious equaliser in a four-goal virtuoso perfor-mance for Barcelona at the Nou Camp against the Gunners in the 2010 Champions League.
This goalscorer supreme has also developed into a prodi-gious taker of free-kicks, which was spectacularly illustrated in Barcelonas El Clasico encoun-ter with Real Madrid in October when he curled in a delightful set-piece from 30 yards out.
Absolute beautiesHes therefore not just a great
goal-scorer, but a scorer of great goals, even with his head de-spite being a diminutive 5ft 7ins as he showed when he nodded home Barcelonas second goal in their 2-0 Champions League final destruction of Manchester United in 2009. His boss at Bar-celona, Tito Vilanova, perfectly encapsulated his stars preter-natural goal-scoring ability thus: Leo continually breaks records. 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. Also, some of his goals are absolute beauties.
So, how has a singular striker like Messi turned into an in-comparable goal machine?
Its widely accepted that his status as the most potent play-er in football owes much to his former coach at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola. When Guardiola took over from Frank Rijkaard at the Nou Camp in 2008, Messi was a mercurial winger who regularly cut in from the left wing.
Guardiola, though, sensed his talisman would be even more effective if unleashed in a cen-tral role, and therefore gave him licence to roam in a position which has become known as the false nine. In other words, Messi is not a traditional cen-tral striker, or number 9, who exclusively prowls the penalty area waiting for the ball to come his way. Instead, he drops deep into midfield when required to join in attacks, many of which he initiates himself.
It was a tactical masterstroke from Guardiola, which has yielded jaw-dropping dividends year on year. In Guardiolas first season, 2008-09, Messi netted 38 goals in all competitions for Barcelona. Since then, he has plundered 47, 53 and 73 goals for his club alone in the next three seasons up to the end of the 2011/12 campaign. The statistics he is compiling are quite outra-geous. He is Barcelonas all-time leading goal-scorer at the age of only 25 with 283 goals; holds the record for the most La Liga hat-tricks in a single season (8); and he scored the most goals ever in a single season with 73 in 2011/12. And thats to name but three of his never-ending and luminous collection of achievements.
All football lovers should, like Messi when he scores, thank a higher power for pro-viding us with a footballer of such striking abilities.
EDitorial CommEnt D2
By Euan ReedieDeputy Sports Editor
Ive said it a lot, its nice to beat records but the win for the team is what is important and the points dif-ference at the top.
Lionel Messi | Barcelona star
It seems impossible to score so many goals, lets hope he can add to the record in the games to come.
Tito Vilanova | Barcelona manager
For me Messi is the best in the world. For the last few years he has played at a level of football we have never seen before.
Ronaldinho | Ex-Barcelona star
When Messi has scored 1,283 goals like me, when hes won three World Cups, well talk about it.
Pele | Brazilian legend
Muller, the man Messi eclipsed
Lionel Messi broke Gerd Mul-lers 40-year-old record on Sunday for the most goals scored in a single year, but the lifestyles of Der Bomber and the magical Argentine could not be more different.
Messi was in double form for Barcelona at Real Betis in the 2-1 win to take his goal tally for the calendar year onto an incredible 86 one more than the previous record of 85 set by Muller in 1972 for Bayern Mu-nich and West Germany.
At the peak of his career when he scored the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final Muller basked in the same god-like status Messi now enjoys.
But having battled alcoholism since his retirement in 1981, his public appearances are limited now to the occasional Munich match and a German television milkshake advert alongside cur-rent Bayern and Germany star Thomas Mueller.
I ruined my life, Der Bomber admits having blasted an incredible 68 goals in his 62 appearances for his country.
He bowed out on the inter-national stage at just 28 years of age after hitting the winning goal in Munich as West Ger-many beat Holland 2-1 to win the 1974 World Cup. Mueller finished with 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga games.
While Messi has been instru-mental in helping Barcelona en-joy a golden era in the clubs rich history, the same was true for Muller and Bayern in the 1970s.
In 1965, Muller, Sepp Maier and Franz Beckenbauer in-spired the club to promotion to
the Bundesliga. Munich became champions for the first time in 1969, before claiming a hat-trick of domestic titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974. The dream team then won the European Cup three times from 1974 to 1976.
Impressive titlesEverything that FC Bayern
has become is due to Gerd Mul-ler and his goals, said Becken-bauer, who captained Germany to the 1974 World Cup win and coached the 1990-title winning team. Muller was the clubs top scorer every season from 1964-65 to 1977-78, and the Bundes-ligas leading marksman seven times.
His collection of personal awards is as impressive as the
titles Bayern won. At 21, he was voted German Player of the Year in 1967, then in 1970, he became the first German to be crowned European Footballer of the Year after winning the top scorer award at the Mexico 1970 World Cup. When his play-ing career ended after a three-year spell in the North Ameri-can League, Muller admits he descended into deep crisis and began drinking heavily.
Bayerns current president Uli Hoeness helped get him back on his feet by offering him a con-tract in 1992; initially to look af-ter sponsors, scout for talent and coach strikers and goalkeepers. He later became a youth coach and first team assistant.
The German was the goal king of the 1970s, before battling alcoholism when he retired
Goal bound the predatory Muller scoring the first of his two goals in
West Germanys 3-0 win over the USSR in the final of the European Championships in Brussels on June 18, 1972.
1At Atletico Madrid in February Messi proved decisive for Barcelona as only he can. With the score locked at 1-1 with nine minutes remaining, Barcelona won a free-kick on the left-hand corner of the home sides box. It looked an impossible angle from which to score, especially for a left-footer like Messi. But the little maestro, after a brief discus-sion with Xavi Hernandez, curled