Leo Is Legend: Messi Reaches Football Immortality

Xoel CardenasContributor IIIDecember 9, 2012

Leo Is Legend: Messi Reaches Football Immortality

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    Lionel Messi reached football immortality as he broke the legendary Gerd Müller’s record of the most goals in a calendar year in leading FC Barcelona to a 2-1 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

    Betis had the first shot in the third minute as Joel Campbell’s lob pass nearly found Salva Sevilla, whose header just missed. Cesc Fabregas suffered a thigh injury and had to be replaced in the 10th minute. Alexis Sanchez came in for the former Arsenal man.

    In the 16th minute, Messi tied Müller’s record as he got the ball, ran to the left, passed two Betis defenders and kicked into the far post, beating goalkeeper Adrian.

    Andres Iniesta almost doubled the lead two minutes later as his lob shot looked good, but Betis goalkeeper Adrian made a leaping tip to clear it out for a corner kick.

    History was made in the 25th minute as Lionel Andres Messi broke Gerd Müller’s record of goals in a calendar year with his 86th goal of 2012. On the break, Messi found Iniesta on the left, who back-heeled it back to him, allowing Leo to bullet the ball to the far right post and in for history.

    We are all privileged to witness football history, and to be living in the Lionel Messi era.

    Xavi looked to get his goal in the 34th minute as he drove a long shot on goal, but Adrian made a nice diving save.

    Ruben Castro cut the lead in half in the 39th minute as he stayed onside for the one-on-one with Victor Valdes. Castro easily put it passed Barca's keeper for the goal.

    In the second half, Betis nearly tied the score in the 52nd minute as a cross towards Valdes was mishandled by the Barcelona goalkeeper and hit underneath the crossbar—but then Valdes recovered and made the save. Betis hit the woodwork again in the 71st minute as a Jose Cañas header hit the far post, but Valdes grabbed the loose ball.

    Alexis Sanchez found a wide-open Pedro in the 77th minute, and the Canarian’s shot was blocked by Adrian. Jorge Molina tried to center a shot in the 79th minute, but his cross was cleared. Then, Alejandro Pozuelo's half volley hit the post as Betis once again came just inches away from equalizing.

    Messi nearly got his hat trick in the 83rd minute as Thiago found him inside the box; his shot was blocked by Adrian, with the rebound finding Jordi Alba, whose shot went to the top of the crossbar and out of play.

    Incredible!

    The last few minutes were incredible as both teams went back and forth. Betis had one last chance in stoppage time, but their corner kick was headed wide and out of play.

    The final score was Real Betis 1 – 2 FC Barcelona.

    Barcelona remain unbeaten in La Liga and continue their historic run as they add to their record of the best start in league history: 43 out of 45 points.

    The Man of The Match for FC Barcelona: The Woodwork, but the night and the accolades went to Lionel Andres Messi.

    Let’s break down the three most important things "From The Mind of Xoel" from Barcelona’s win over Betis, including looking at Messi’s record by the numbers.

Thiago Needs to Step Up with Cesc out

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    With Cesc Fabregas out for three to four weeks with a thigh injury, Tito Vilanova will need a player to step up and help the midfield for the rest of 2012.

    And that player is Thiago Alcantara.

    Now, I’m looking for Thiago to replicate what Cesc has done for Barcelona this season. Fabregas leads La Liga with nine goals in 2012-13.

    Thiago was out for eight weeks earlier this season with a knee injury. Now at 100 percent, he needs to get into rhythm and, with Cesc’s unfortunate injury, it’s the perfect time for him to establish his game with the team. In the few minutes that Thiago was in the Betis game, the kid played well—minus one horrible shot on goal.

    Of course Xavi and Andres Iniesta are there in the midfield, but with the older Xavi needing rest at times, and Iniesta already busy on the pitch, Thiago needs to add some energy while Cesc is out.

    I don’t expect Thiago to start in next week’s clash against Atletico Madrid, but he could start against Cordoba in Copa del Rey action. Look for him to come off the bench in that game, and he could start in Barcelona’s final Liga of 2012 against Valladolid as well.

    Cesc Fabregas won’t be out for a long time, but he’ll still be missed.

    But in the meantime, Thiago Alcantara needs to step up and make his presence felt in the Barcelona midfield. 

Luck Be Barça’s Lady Tonight?

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    What we see with the Barcelona defense is still the same: bent but not broken.

    So far, it has been good enough in La Liga.

    Credit must go to Real Betis for a tough game. Ruben Castro, Beñat and others caused problems for Barcelona—not to mention goalkeeper Adrian.

    Jordi Alba did not have a great game. Carles Puyol did not return in the second half as leg pain forced Tito Vilanova to take out el capitan as a precautionary. Gerard Pique was not bad and Adriano held his own. But Javier Mascherano struggled a bit.

    Perhaps the best defender for Barcelona in the game was the woodwork—it felt like Betis hit the crossbar or the post 10 times.

    It wasn't that many times, but still, the case can be made that Barcelona got lucky against Real Betis.

    But luck is part of the game, and especially part of all championship teams. Real Madrid had it last season in La Liga, as did Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League last season.

    The case can also be made that Barcelona have been lucky that Messi’s goals have been enough to carry the team’s scoring.

    And you know what? It’s kind of true.

    I’m not trying to complaining about anything, but what could be seen as a future issue is that the Barcelona wingers are not scoring as before. It’s not like Messi isn’t passing it to them.

    But let’s be honest: Messi’s goals have carried this club, especially in the past two seasons.

    Pedro Rodriguez, Cristian Tello, David Villa and Alexis Sanchez need to create space and score goals, because a game will come in the season where Messi is either off his game or will be defended well by a team, needing his teammates to create plays as well.

    Sounds impossible that Messi could have an "off" game with this run he’s having, but I only have to remind you of last season's Champions League and how he needed his teammates to step up. 

    The wingers have proven that they can create space and goals in the past, but there have been too many times where it seems like they are waiting for Messi to start something and do the work.

    Luck continues to be on Barcelona’s side this season. But let’s hope the wingers produce more goals so Barça don’t need luck too many times to win games, especially in the Champions League.

Messi Breaks Müller’s Record

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    Lionel Messi has broken Gerd Müller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year, after he scored his 85th, then 86th, goals in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Real Betis.

    Let’s break down Messi’s record by the numbers:

    Goals by competition:

    La Liga: 56

    Champions League: 13

    International (Argentina): 12

    Copa Del Rey: 3

    Spanish Super Cup: 2

    Messi has scored 2 goals or more in every Liga game he's scored.

    With his first goal of the night against Betis, Messi (191 goals) surpassed legend Cesar Rodriguez for the most goals scored in La Liga in Barcelona history (190).

    With his second goal, Messi surpassed Raul (Real Madrid) on the list of most away goals in La Liga history (87).

    He will eventually surpass Hugo Sanchez’s record of 99 away goals.

    Messi is the second player ever to score a brace in five consecutive La Liga games (Zarra was the first).

    With four games to go in the league, Lionel Messi equals Cristiano Ronaldo's all-time record for most goals (23) in the league's first round—a record Messi will certainly break.

    Messi since the birth of Thiago: 11 goals in 752 minutes for Barcelona and Argentina (one goal every 68 minutes).

    Lionel Messi has scored 23 goals in 15 matches. Last season, he needed 21 games to get to 23 goals.

    Messi has now scored 30 goals in 23 official games for Barcelona this season.

    Messi in 2012 for Barcelona and Argentina: 5,405 minutes of football, 86 goals (one goal every 63 minutes).

    If we were to include friendly matches, Messi has now scored 91 goals for club and country in 2012: 79 FCB (74 official and five friendly) and 12 for Argentina.

    With 15 away goals this season, Messi has scored as many league goals in away matches this season as all players of Real Madrid combined.

    And of course, he now holds the record for the most goals in a calendar year with 86 goals…and counting.

    We have all run out of words and adjectives to describe Lionel Andres Messi.

    On this historic occasion, let’s hear from the man who held the record for 40 years: Gerd Müller. The German legend released a statement via Adidas on Messi surpassing his record:

    Congratulations to Leo on breaking the record! Scoring 85 goals - or even more - is not an easy thing to do. Leo absolutely is a world-class player, and I'm very pleased the record remains in such good hands!

    After the game, Lionel Messi thanked everyone for their support via his Facebook page:

    It was important to win the game today and pretty amazing to beat Gerd Müller’s 85 goal record. A really big thank you to all my teammates and fans who have made this possible! Thank you very much for your incredible support. I could not have done this without you!

    No, Leo…thank you.

    We Cules love you and are honored to be witnessing the history you are creating.

    ¡Grande Messi!

    ¡Histórico Messi!

    ¡Histórico FC Barcelona!

     

    Look out for my special article “Thank You, Messi: A Tribute” coming later this week here on Bleacher Report.

     

    Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on the net, period.

     

    Don't forget to check out my other columns:

    Messi Duels with Kobe, Celtic Pays Tribute to Barca

    Barca's Plan B If Messi Is Ever Out for a While

    Why We Could See Pep and Mou in Manchester Soon