Messi leaves La Liga greats trail­ing

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA — If any­one had sug­gested when a cal­low teenager called Lionel Messi net­ted his de­but La Liga goal for Barcelona in May 2005 he would equal Telmo Zarra’s Span­ish top-flight scor­ing record within a decade they would have been dis­missed.

Yet that is what the pint­sized 27-year-old Ar­gen­tine achieved when he scored from a free kick in the 21st minute of last Satur­day’s game at home to Sevilla to match Zarra’s haul of 251 goals over 15 sea­sons for Ath­letic Bil­bao in the 1940s and 50s.

Messi equalled the tally with a typ­i­cally breath-tak­ing strike, curl­ing the ball around the wall and past Sevilla goal­keeper Beto into the net to give Barca a 1-0 lead.

Messi has taken 10 sea­sons to catch Zarra – also set­ting a re­mark­able record for goals in a sin­gle cam­paign of 50 in 2011-12 – and the il­lus­tri­ous names he has over­hauled give some in­di­ca­tion of the scale of his feat.

The likes of Hugo Sanchez (234 goals), Raul (228), Al­fredo Di Ste­fano (227) and Ce­sar Ro­driguez (226) have been left trail­ing and, with years left in his ca­reer, Messi’s even­tual tally could stand as long as Zarra’s if not a lot longer.

Messi also has a share of the Cham­pi­ons League scor­ing record hav­ing equalled Raul’s haul of 71 goals this month.

A glance at the num­bers shows Messi’s goals per game ra­tio in La Liga is sec­ond only to Zarra’s, who amassed his 251 in a mere 277 matches, while Messi needed 289 games.

Sanchez’s 234 came in 347 matches, Raul needed 550 games to reach 228 and Di Ste­fano re­quired 329 for his 227 goals. Any­one who has watched Messi in re­cent years knows he can do things with a foot­ball at his feet that seem to defy the laws of physics and he does not fit into the mould of a

tra­di­tional striker.

Most of the other play­ers at the top of the Span­ish scor­ing chart were con­sid­ered outand-out goalscor­ers, while Messi tends to roam the pitch.

His abil­ity to drib­ble at speed past op­po­nents is breathtaking and as well as net­ting a phe­nom­e­nal num­ber of goals him­self he reg­u­larly sets up team­mates to score.

“Messi has some­thing mag­i­cal about him when the ball touches his feet,” for­mer Manch­ester United man­ager Alex Fer­gu­son said. “It’s as if it has landed on a bed of feath­ers.”

Com­par­ing Messi’s play­ing style to some of La Liga’s pre­vi­ous top marks­men is prob­lem­atic as rel­a­tively lit­tle tele­vi­sion footage ex­ists of the likes of Zarra, Di Ste­fano and Ce­sar.

Di Ste­fano, who died this year aged 88, per­haps had the strong­est all-round game of Spain’s lead­ing scor­ers and was of­ten seen boss­ing the mid­field and tack­ling back in de­fence as well as bear­ing down on goal.

VERY CLEVER

One of Zarra’s great­est mo­ments came play­ing for Spain against Eng­land at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil when he scored in a 1-0 win at the Mara­cana.

The sta­dium later be­came the scene of Messi’s great­est dis­ap­point­ment when Ar­gentina were beaten 1-0 by Ger­many in the fi­nal of the lat­est edi­tion in July.

A grainy black and white film on Youtube shows the stocky Zarra scor­ing the only goal of the match from close range, the typ­i­cal poacher’s ef­fort of a born goalscorer more in the mould of a Gerd Mueller or a Miroslav Klose.

Messi has net­ted plenty of sim­i­lar ef­forts but, un­like Ce­sar for ex­am­ple, who was known for his aerial strength, he rarely scores with his head and a large num­ber of his goals have come after trade­mark dart­ing runs in from the right wing. De­fend­ers are typ­i­cally left flail­ing at thin air when the Ar­gen­tine speeds across the top of the penalty area and when he finds space to shoot, he rarely misses the tar­get.

“Messi is a ge­nius,” ac­cord­ing to Franz Beck­en­bauer,a World Cup win­ner with Ger­many as player and coach.“he has ev­ery­thing. When I watch him, I see a player who is very, very skil­ful, very clever and his left foot is like Diego Maradona’s.”

— Reuters

Lionel Messi is lifted by team­mates after set­ting a La Liga scor­ing record of 253 goals when he claimed a hat-trick in Satur­day’s match at the Camp nou sta­dium against Sevilla.

TELMO Zarra (right) was La Liga’s undis­puted goal king un­til now.

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