Lionel Messi is still not the greatest player of all time, but he took yet another step toward that designation on Sunday.
The 25-year-old superstar scored a brace in the first 25 minutes against Real Betis, breaking Gerd Muller's record for goals in a calender year (via SI Soccer):
Messi breaks 40-year record with 86th goal of 2012 on.si.com/1212ajP— SI Soccer (@si_soccer) December 9, 2012
Eighty-six goals. Just think about that.
Most players don't score 86 goals in their professional careers. Messi, who appropriately enough broke the record just days after suffering a scary knee injury (I say appropriately because, well, I'm not sure he's human), did it in 12 months.
Across all competitions, Messi, according to ESPN, now has a jaw-dropping 308 goals in his career.
Of course, you don't need numbers to know just how magical the young Argentine truly is. The one Ballon d'Or and two FIFA Ballon d'Or awards might convince you. Or just watching him beautifully weave through defenders like the ball is glued to his foot. Or his mesmerizing, almost unfair runs down the middle of the pitch. Or perhaps his creativity in finding the back of the net.
The fact that he broke Gerd Muller's 40-year-old record is just the cherry on top that makes him the best goal scorer in the history of the sport and arguably the best ever at the club level.
You probably know by now that a "but" is coming.
But, to be considered the greatest of all time, a player must dominate the competition at both the club and international level.
Messi has half of that equation down.
It's not like the left-footed stud has been some second-level player on the world scene, but he's been far less dangerous with an Argentina shirt on than with a Barcelona one.
In eight World Cup matches in 2006 and 2010, the young superstar has scored just one goal while his country has been eliminated in the quarterfinals in both tournaments.
By contrast, Pele won the World Cup twice in his first 22 years of existence and three times overall.
This is a team game, of course, so it's hard to fault Messi completely. But in order to be called the greatest of all time, he needs to replicate his Barca success with Argentina. He needs to win a World Cup.
Nevertheless, the mere fact that we're talking about this while he's just 25 is a good sign he's well on his way. He'll have plenty more opportunities to make his case.