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Keir RadnedgeLeo Messi has a possible 11 remaining games this year in which to score the 10 goals which would see him overtake Gerd Muller and thus become the most prolific individual marksman in a calendar year.

Last weekend the Argentinian scored twice in Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Mallorca in the Spanish league to take his tally for the current league campaign to 15 goals with six doubles and one hat-trick. These goals have taken him to 76 in all competitions, one more than Pele in 1958.

Muller scored 85 goals in 1972 for Bayern Munich and West Germany.

Messi failed to find the net against Saudi Arabia in midweek and thus missed out on the chance to take sole command of one record and become Argentina’s all-time top scorer in a calendar year. Messi scored 12 goals in nine internationals this year, equalling the mark set by Gabriel Batistuta in 1998.

For the record, so to speak, Batistuta is Argentina’s all-time record marksman with 56 goals. Messi has 31 so far and, at the age 25, at least another good six or seven years in which overtake ‘Batigol.’

As far as this year is concerned he has a possible maximum 11 games – starting Saturday at home to Zaragoza – in Spanish league and cup and Champions League to score the necessary minimum 10 goals. All this is assuming he steers clear of injuries, illness and suspensions.

Since Messi’s present 76 goals have come in 60 games at an average of 1.26, maintaining that scoring rate would bring him a further 13 goals and on to a total of 89. That is remarkable considering the world game’s progress in fitness standards and tactical match preparation.

Already Messi has wiped away one of Muller’s records.

‘Der Bomber’ netted 398 times in 453 games over 15 years for Bayern, 68 goals in 62 games for West Germany – including the winner in the 1974 World Cup final – and was top scorer seven times in the Bundesliga. His most prolific season was 1972-73 when he scored 36 in the league, seven in the German Cup, 12 in the league cup and 12 in international club competitions.

That added up to the European club record of 67 which Messi erased in 2011-12. Now the calendar standard is within his reach.

One man who knows all about top-line goalscoring is Frenchman Just Fontaine whose mark of 13 goals in Sweden in 1958 still stands as the record for a single World Cup finals tournament – even though the finals have been expanded in numbers since then offering a possible one extra game to any potential challengers.

Fontaine, now 79, believes that Messi is the only player in the world with the potential to break his record. He also envies the Argentinian that support network at Barcelona, saying: “In this Barcelona I would have scored more than 200 goals . . .”

By Keir Radnedge

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