Press purr over Messi achievement
Lionel Messi's two goals against Real Betis on Sunday, which saw him overtake Gerd Muller's record for goals in a calendar year, left Catalan and Spanish editors and journalists struggling for the superlatives yet again.
Messi's double saw him ease past Muller's mark of 85 set back in 1972, and brought out the creative side in many local football writers.
The editors at Calatan daily Mundo Deportivo went for a simple option - with its cover featuring the number '86!' plastered huge over a photo of a celebrating Messi. Its match report was headlined 'Legendary Victory', with Francesc Aguilar claiming that the Barca No. 10 was both a Greek God and a visitor from outer space at the same time.
"Leo Messi did not wait to enter into history," wrote Aguilar. "He scored twice to overtake Gerd Muller's record, to make his legend even greater, to put himself on the Mount Olympus of football aged 25, with a whole career still in front of him. FIFA would have done well to give him his fourth Ballon d'Or tonight and not wait until January 7. He is an extraterrestrial, there is no doubt."
The cover of Barcelona-based Sport was headlined 'How Great! - The Record and Three Golden Points' and also said 'Missile Messi - He leaves Torpedo Muller behind with 86 goals in one year'. Inside pundit Josep Maria Casanovas alluded to skeptics who have wondered whether the calendar year total is really that important and thanked his lucky stars to be watching football while Messi was playing.
"A Messianic Record," Casanovas punned. "What happened yesterday in Sevilla will pass into the history of world football. It is not just one more record, it is a mark which has lasted 40 years and we dare to suggest that it will be very difficult to surpass in the future. We are very lucky that we will always be able to tell that we lived through this marvellous year in which Messi scored 86 goals. It is an explosion, a spectacle, a marvel to see the best player in the world in action."
The Madrid-supporting media were not quite as overwhelmed. AS decided not to lead with Messi's achievement, instead highlighting Radamel Falcao's five goal haul in Atletico Madrid's 6-0 win over Deportivo la Coruna on its cover, finding space for just a small photo of a smiling Messi. Inside the paper, Santi Gimenez's match report remembered that the player himself thought his chance of the record had gone when he collided with Benfica keeper Artur last Wednesday.
"Three days ago the Argentine was sure that the shot which Artur saved was the last he would take in a long time," Gimenez wrote. "He believed he was crocked. But it was nothing. The very next ball he touched after the scare went to the net. And the second too. Historical goals."
Marca decided to put both South American record breakers on its cover with a headline of 'Fury Unleashed', and a sub-heading of 'Messi overtakes the 'unbreakable' record of Muller: 85 goals in a year'. Inside the Barca-Betis match report was headlined "Messi torpedoes history", while there was also an acknowledgement that their favourite Cristiano Ronaldo was likely to be disappointed when the 2012 Ballon d'Or votes are counted.
The sports sections of the regular press were also full of Messi-mania. El Pais' match report claimed 'Messi crowns himself in Villamarin', with reporter Luis Martin writing that "Barcelona, hooked on the romance between Messi and the goal, are picking up three points in this league with such ease that the Argentine scoffs at all records. La Pulga ('The Flea') annihilated the mark of Gerd Muller and left it clear that as well as being a genius, he is an incomparable goalscorer, the best".
David Ruiz Marull of Catalan paper La Vanguardia wrote in his report that the most amazing thing about Messi's achievement was that nobody was really surprised he had done it - and with three games still left to play in 2012.
"Nothing is impossible for geniuses," Ruiz Marull said. "There are no insurmountable barriers, no unachievable goals. They are the ones who make the rules, for they are the gifted ones... Nothing Messi does is even a surprise any more."