Stoppage Time: Messi continues to rewrite history
(Sports Network) - It has become quite clear by now that attempting to stop Lionel Messi from scoring is one of the most difficult things to do in sports.
But maybe a task that is just as daunting is to find new ways to describe his brilliance on a soccer field.
With two goals in a 2-1 Barcelona win over Real Betis on Sunday, Messi has now scored 86 times in 2012, breaking the previous mark of 85 set by German legend Gerd Muller in 1972.
And with three games still to play before 2012 runs out, chances are that number will increase.
The breaking of Muller's 40-year-old mark follows a 2011-12 campaign that saw Messi top La Liga's scoring chart with a staggering 50 goals in 37 league appearances, which also set a new standard for excellence.
At 25, Messi has already won just about everything possible on the club level with Barcelona, including La Liga, the Champions League, Copa del Rey and FIFA Club World Cup.
He has set numerous individual records, and in January, will likely be named the best male player in the world for the fourth successive time.
Just about the only thing missing from Messi's resume is a World Cup title for Argentina, which he will try to fix in 2014.
Some will make the case that he has benefited greatly from playing with arguably the top team of this generation, including world-class talents in Xavi and Andres Iniesta, while others like David Villa, Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Cesc Fabregas give Messi plenty of room to operate.
And while there is some truth to that assessment, there is no denying the fact that his predatory instinct is unlike anything we have seen in a long time.
Despite having the physical appearance of a high school freshman, Messi has been incredibly durable over the course of his career, making 382 appearances since the start of the 2006-07 season.
A tireless runner, Messi is deadly with either foot and packs a surprisingly healthy wallop on his free kicks despite his diminutive stature.
With such a ridiculous scoring record and so much success at this point in his career, comparisons to soccer royalty like Pele and Diego Maradona are almost unavoidable.
But instead of having to listen to various experts squabble over which player was better, or even worse, to hear Pele and Maradona themselves bicker over the topic, it would be better to just sit back and enjoy the spectacle that Messi provides week after week.
Too often the greatness of a player isn't truly appreciated until after his career is over.
So wherever you want to put Messi on the list of all-time great players at this point isn't important.
What is important is that we have the opportunity to watch the best player of his generation in the prime of his career.
And as we saw once again on Sunday, Messi is a show that constantly keeps us coming back for more.