London: Gerd Mueller has hailed Lionel Messi as “an incredible player” after the Barcelona star broke his record for the most goals in a calendar year.
Mueller grabbed 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972 and the mark stood for 40 years until Sunday when Messi netted his 85th and 86th goals of an incredible 2012 in Barca’s 2-1 win at Real Betis.
Mueller led the tributes on Monday, saying: “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.”
Mueller, 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 he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich!”
Messi’s Barca team-mates were also in awe of his achievement. Spain defender Gerard Pique said: “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.” Barcelona 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 and Jose Pinto. As well as passing Mueller, 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 232 goals set by Rodriguez during the 1940s and 50s. Messi 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.