Madrid: Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi set a new record for goals in a calendar year when he reached 86 for 2012 on Sunday to further cement his reputation as one of the greatest players of all time.
Messi had equalled German legend Gerd Mueller’s mark of 85 goals from 1972 when he slotted the ball home in the 16th minute of La Liga clash at Real Betis from a pass by Adriano.
The 25-year-old then added his historic second nine minutes later from an Andres Iniesta backheel, after a smart one-two with his teammate, to claim his place in the record books.
Messi has made a habit of creating landmarks in his career.
Last season, he became the most successful scorer in a La Liga season by hitting 50 goals in the league campaign.
He is already the club’s greatest scorer having last season gone past the record of 232 goals by Cesar Rodriguez set in the 1940s and 1950s.
He also equalled the record for goals scored in a Champions League season when he hit 14.
His latest feat means he will be the overwhelming favourite to once again claim the Ballon d’Or where he faces competition from Iniesta and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi, who now has 74 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this year as well as 12 for Argentina, having played 66 games in all, would be the first player to win the award four times.
“Messi will be the player to win the most Ballons d’Or in history,” Dutch legend Johann Cruyff has predicted.
“He will win five, six, seven. He is incomparable. He’s in a different league.”
Messi’s history-making goals in Seville came just days after he had been stretchered off with a knee injury in the Champions League clash against Benfica.
“On the stretcher, I thought the worst, of the pain torturing me, of being off the pitch for a long time,” he said
“Sincerely I thought it was the last ball that I would kick in a long time.”
The Argentine star has insisted that breaking Mueller’s record had never been his most pressing concern.
“Mueller’s record isn’t an obsession for me, but it would be good, because it’s been there for a long time,” he said in the run-up to Sunday’s match where Barcelona were looking to consolidate their place at the top of the table.