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Leo Messi / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

• “It’s Official (Kind of): Lionel Messi Is Better than Pelé”

“Perhaps the best available metric to sum up Lionel Messi’s latest achievement is that precisely nobody was surprised about it,” writes TIME’s Glen Levy after the Argentine surpassed Pelé’s mark of goals scored in a calendar year. Messi is only nine goals shy of Gerd Müller’s all-time record of 85 goals scored in 1972.

“It’s slightly spurious to compare eras because the soccer world of 2012 is a far different beast to 1958, where players weren’t as physically fit, formations weren’t as sophisticated and the quality gap between sides – especially in the international arena – was far wider than today,” says Levy. It's true, while the task of comparing football eras perhaps is one best left alone, the journalist makes a solid point that quality in international football has increased across the board in the past decades. He adds: “Bulgaria, Croatia, Turkey, South Korea and Uruguay have reached the semi-finals in the last five tournaments, knocking out supposedly superior sides along the way.”

While the ‘who is better’ debate may never come to a definitive conclusion, Levy states: “Messi is already the favorite to win a fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or. If he eventually lifts a World Cup for Argentina, to add to his already ludicrous trophy haul with Barcelona, we will be able to anoint him the greatest player of all time and move on with our lives.”

Read Glen Levy’s article in its entirety here.

• It’s about the trophies, stupid

ESPN’s Graham Hunter takes a look at FC Barcelona’s unprecedented start to the Spanish League and Leo Messi’s most recent feat of surpassing Pelé’s mark of goals scored in a calendar year.

“Look at the names Messi is now overtaking,” writes Hunter, “only one other footballer has ever won three straight Ballons d'Or (Michel Platini) -- Messi equalled him and stands to move into splendid isolation when he lifts the trophy again in January. At least that's what I believe will happen. The only other men to hold three are Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten.

“In terms of scoring, Messi now has twelve matches to score the ten goals that would put him all alone as the greatest scorer of goals in a calendar year ever. In the entire history of organised soccer. Really, we should be counting down the games like we did the first moon landing. This is remarkable stuff.”

However, the writer cautions that records don’t necessarily lead to titles. Hunter then outlines the fate that awaited Gerd Müller’s Bayern Munich in 1972. Despite Der Bomber’s incredible goalscoring run of 85 goals that year, his team didn’t go on to win major silverware. Nor did Real Madrid in the 1991/92 season, when Los Blancos strung together 13 victories and 2 draws from their opening 15 La Liga matches.
 
“Records are not prizes; records are not what motivates Messi, Vilanova, Xavi, Carles Puyol, and company. Really and truly, they are not,” says Hunter.

At the beginning of the season Messi noted that while winning individual awards was nice, what he truly wants are titles with FC Barcelona and Argentina. Jordi Alba, when he signed for the Blaugrana this summer, said the same thing when asked what he hoped for this season: “I want to win titles. I’m here at Barça and I’ll try my best to win more titles for the team.”

In addition, the sentence that Vilanova has uttered at least once in each and every post-match press conference this season is “the season has just begun, we have a long way to go.” While the records that are being broken are certainly impressive, it’s clear that the team’s focus is squarely on lifting trophies in May and June.

Read Graham Hunter’s article in its entirety here.

• Iniesta talks about La Masia and Barça’s style of play

Iniesta talks about his time at La Masia, Barça's style of play and what it felt like to be named the best player in Europe. FC Barcelona covered Sid Lowe's article on Andrés Iniesta earlier this week. However, it's well worth your time if you haven't had the chance to read it yet.

Read Sid Lowe’s article in its entirety here.


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