When we talk about Lionel Messi, we inevitably talk about goals – and a lot of them. The Argentinian legend has consistently shattered records throughout his career – one of the most staggering being the number of goals he scored in a single season.
So, what’s the highest number of goals Messi has scored in a season then?
To answer the question right away, the number is 73 (yes, you read that right, seventy-three) – a figure Messi hit during the 2011-2012 campaign with Barcelona under the guidance of Pep Guardiola. Keep in mind that not only is this the most goals Messi has scored in a season – it’s also the highest number any player has achieved in a single season in practically any European competition. Let’s take a closer look into both this record and Messi’s exceptional career.
Messi’s record-breaking season
During the 2011-2012 campaign, Lionel Messi was on fire, and, as briefly mentioned at the beginning of the article, he managed to score 73 goals in all competitions for Barca – a club he’s spent the majority of his career at before making a transfer to PSG and then Inter Miami.
But let’s not stop there. Messi holds several other records. He has also scored the most hat-tricks in La Liga, with that number being 36. Add the most goals in a calendar year (91 in 2012), and the most goals for a single club (672 for Barcelona). On the international stage, Messi has netted the most goals for Argentina (102 in all competitions as of June 2023).
Messi compared to some other legends
Let’s put Messi’s goal-scoring records into context. If we take someone like Cristiano Ronaldo as an example of Messi’s direct rival, we will see that the Portuguese had his best season in 2014-2015 in which he scored 61 goals for Real Madrid.
The legendary Pelé, on the other hand, managed to score 75 goals in a year, but this included all competitions and friendly matches. Messi’s 73 goals came only in official competitive games, which makes this record even bigger.
Messi’s goal-scoring ability is definitely not an anomaly. He has consistently scored 40+ goals per season for over a decade.
If we compare those stats to some more contemporary examples, we will notice that two other names come up when it comes to the goals-per-game ratio – Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé. Both of them are young athletes who have yet to enter their prime, but their goalscoring records are already something that resembles Messi’s early days in Barcelona.
The Norwegian has scored 36 league goals in 35 league games for Manchester City in his first season (which is also a league record). Not only that, but his goal tally at the end of the season 22/23 was 52 goals in 53 games. Even before joining Manchester City, Haaland managed to have a roughly 1 goal per game ratio at Borussia Dortmund and has the same ratio for the National team.
When it comes to the Frenchman, Mbappé is slightly below the 1 goal per game ratio with 148 league goals in 176 games for PSG since joining in 2017. The Frenchman is slightly older and more experienced and has played a bit more compared to Haaland though.
Scoring in La Liga is no easy task
Remember, Messi’s record-breaking season came while playing in La Liga. The Spanish top flight is full of world-class clubs and especially top-tier defenders. Compare this to, let’s say, forwards playing in lower-rated leagues. There, defenses may not be as strong, making it easier to rack up goals. Messi’s achievement, therefore, is even more impressive.
Of course, it’s hard to say how prime Messi would fit into, let’s say, Premier League. The difference in physicality between Spain and England is somewhat noticeable, and many would argue that Messi would have a hard time putting out the same numbers week in and week out had he been a part of the English top tier.
To summarise everything, Messi’s most-goals-in-a-season record is just one fragment of him being a multi-dimensional player. It’s an incredible feat, no doubt, but it’s just part of the larger Messi narrative.
If you’re a football fan, you’ll know that a player’s career can typically stretch between 12 to 15 years, give or take. Naturally, there are some exceptions, with certain players defying the odds and extending their careers beyond the norm. That being said, let’s not forget we’re in the twilight years of Messi’s career. Make sure to soak everything up while you can, and at the same time, feel free to put yourself into the role of a football scout. There’s a new generation of future football icons just around the corner, ready to leave a huge mark in the years to come.