Lionel Messi insists that his record-breaking 86-goal haul in 2012 will count for nothing if Barcelona miss out on La Liga and Champions League titles.
The Argentine star wrote his name into the history books by overhauling German legend Gerd Mueller’s 1972 record of 85 goals in a calendar year with a first-half double that helped his side to an important 2-1 win at Real Betis.
But the 25-year-old was happier to highlight the win more than the record as his team eye a domestic and European double.
“I’ve said it a lot, it’s nice to beat records but the win for the team is what is important and the points difference at the top,” said Messi as Barcelona maintained their six-point lead over Atletico Madrid and 11-point gap on Real Madrid.
“My goals are to win titles with the team, the Spanish league, Spanish Cup or Champions League is more important than any personal records.” It did not take long for Messi to equal Mueller’s record with his side’s first real attack on 16 minutes in Seville, making a diagonal run across the Betis defence before hitting a left footed shot into the right hand corner.
His history-making moment came nine minutes later when he struck from almost an identical position after good play from Adriano and Andres Iniesta.
“My objective at the start of the season was to win another La Liga title,” added Messi, who is also in line to win a record fourth successive Ballon d’Or.
For that accolade, he will face competition from teammate Iniesta and Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
“If Iniesta wins, it will be well-deserved for all that he has done, for the way he plays. Again, it will also be a prize for the dressing room.” Barca coach Tito Vilanova looked forward to more to come from Messi, who now has 74 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this year as well as 12 for Argentina, having played 66 games in all.
His La Liga tally is already up to 23 for this season alone and he can add to his year’s tally with three games still to play in 2012 — in La Liga against Atletico Madrid and Valladolid and the Spanish Cup tie at Cordoba.
“It seems impossible to score so many goals, let’s hope he can add to the record in the games to come,” said Vilanova.
“He is still young and gives us so much, even tonight he helped us out defensively when we needed it, he has so many more qualities than just his goals.” Vilanova was quick, however, to dampen the euphoria surrounding his star player.
“We shouldn’t heap more pressure on him. His record this year is absolutely brutal. Let’s enjoy the moment and not focus on how many goals he might score in the future,” added the coach.
Barca’s sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, was happy to sing Messi’s praises.
“I think his records will be valued more in the future, it’s one more for now but he makes it seem so easy it’s hard to measure his talent,” said Zubizarreta.
“It’s a gift to see him play football but I think he’ll say the same, it’s a team game and he needs his team mates to help him.” Messi has made a habit of creating landmarks in his career.
Last season, he became the most successful scorer in a La Liga season by hitting 50 goals in the league campaign.
He is already the club’s greatest scorer having last season gone past the record of 232 goals by Cesar Rodriguez set in the 1940s and 1950s.
He also equalled the record for goals scored in a Champions League season when he hit 14.
The Argentine star had insisted that breaking Mueller’s record had never been his most pressing concern.
“Mueller’s record isn’t an obsession for me, but it would be good, because it’s been there for a long time,” he said in the run-up to Sunday’s match.
His teammates took to Twitter to congratulate him.
“What great match! Congratulations to Leo for having surpassed the record,” wrote goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Iniesta tweeted: “Congratulations Leo…you are magnificent”.