GERD Muller today hailed Lionel Messi as “an incredible player” after the Barcelona star broke his record for the most goals in a calendar year.
• Lionel Messi broke the 40-year-old record of 85 goals in a calender year
• Previous record holder Gerd Muller praised Messi for beating his goal tally
• Messi became Barca’s record scorer earlier this year surpassing Cesar Rodriguez’ 232 scored in the 1940s and 50s
• The Argentine’s brace against Real Betis also makes him Barcelona’s all-time leading league goal scorer.
Muller grabbed 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972 and the mark stood for 40 years until last night when Messi netted his 85th and 86th goals of an incredible 2012 in Barca’s 2-1 win at Real Betis.
Muller led the tributes today, telling Sport1.de: “My record stood for 40 years - 85 goals in 60 games - and now the best player in the world has broken it, and I’m delighted for him.
“He is an incredible player, gigantic.”
Muller, whose record as Germany’s all-time top goalscorer is also under threat from Miroslav Klose, now hopes Messi will add to his tally before the end of the year.
“He’s such a nice and modest professional and I hope he gets one or two more goals in 2012 and that he can then hold onto the record for the next 40 years,” he added.
“He’s fantastic. He only has one defect and that is that he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich!”
Messi’s Barca team-mates were also in awe of his achievement.
Spain defender Gerard Pique told El Mundo Deportivo: “Leo is supernatural, he has no limits and we always have to remember everything that he’s given us.
“We have to enjoy him every single minute that we have him now.”
Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets added of Messi: “He is the best in the world and I’m very happy he’s broken that record and I hope he gets more.”
A host of other Barca players also took to Twitter to offer their congratulations to Messi, including Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Javier Mascherano, Thiago and Jose Pinto.
As well as passing Muller, Messi’s double against Betis sent him clear of Cesar Rodriguez as Barca’s all-time leading league goalscorer after they had been level on 192 before the match.
Earlier this year Messi became Barca’s record scorer after moving past the tally of 232 official goals set by Rodriguez during the 1940s and 50s.
The Argentina captain has also claimed a host of other individual records during a remarkable career that looks certain to include many more memorable moments in the future.
Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta believes the magnitude of Messi’s achievements may not fully sink in until further down the line.
“I’m sure that we will really appreciate Leo’s records over time. They happen so quickly that they seem to be just one more thing. It all seems very simple but it’s very difficult to describe it,” he told Canal Plus.
The man himself was typically modest and insisted he derived more pleasure from helping Barca preserve their six-point advantage at the top of the Primera Division standings than he did claiming another personal landmark.
“The record is great for what it means, but the most important thing is that the team won and that we maintained the distance with the teams behind us,” Messi told the club’s website.
“When the year starts the objective is to win it all with the team, personal records are secondary.”
But he added: “I’ll try to score more goals to make it more difficult for the next player that tries to break it.”