x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Lionel Messi must now be the greatest of all time

With two thirds of the season still to play, Messi has already scored the same number of goals as the Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno netted to win the Pichichi in 1990/91, writes Andy Mitten.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Levante.
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Levante.

Barcelona scored another four goals last weekend using a side made up entirely of home-grown players. Their 43 goals from 13 league matches the club's best record since 1950/51.

They have never had a better league start. Fans are not quite saying, "Pep, who?" but they are more than satisfied with his replacement, Tito Vilanova.

Lionel Messi has scored 19 of Barca's goals, only one of which has been a penalty.

Messi is scoring at a rate better than any player in Spain since 1943/44. With two thirds of the season still to play, Messi has already scored the same number of goals as the Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno netted to win the Pichichi in 1990/91. Butragueno was a world-class striker, Messi must now be the best striker the world has ever seen.

Barca were being held by Levante until Messi changed things after 47 minutes. He scored again five minutes later. He has the ability to find a level no other player can reach, to go past players and decide the toughest matches.

Messi scored 52 league goals last season, a record. Many thought his achievement freakish and unlikely to ever be bettered, yet it could happen straightaway.

Oh how Barcelona's neighbours Espanyol, bottom of the league having won just seven of 35 games in 2012, who have not scored in their last three home games and who dismissed their coach Mauricio Pochettino this week after nearly four years in charge, must look across the city and envy how the other half live.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE and Andy Mitten @andyitten