German legend Gerd Muller labelled Barcelona star Lionel Messi ‘an incredible player’ and said he deserved to break his goalscoring record.
Messi, who is still only 25, equalled Muller’s tally of 85 goals in a calendar year against Real Betis on Sunday night, and then quickly surpassed it with a second goal from an Andres Iniesta backheel.
With the record now standing at 86 – and with the possibility of it finishing even higher – Muller has heralded the Camp Nou forward despite his belief that attackers have it easier in the 21st century.
Muller scored 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972 – a record that stood for 40 years until Messi’s heroics in 2012.
“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,” Muller told Sport1.de.
“He is an incredible player, gigantic.
“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’s fantastic. He only has one defect and that is that he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich.”
Tito Vilanova’s men face Cordoba in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday, offering Messi a chance to pursue the 90-goal mark.
Barcelona have had an incredible start to the 2012-13 season, dropping just two points in 15 league games to sit six points clear at the top of the La Liga table.
The Spanish side also comfortably topped their UEFA Champions League group.
Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, meanwhile, believes that Messi will be remembered over the coming years as one of the all-time greats of football.
“In the end, Messi’s records will be valued over time,” he told Canal+. “It sounds simple but it serves to describe the player as well, who has such talent.
“We had the scare the other day, but anyone who loves football feels lucky to see Messi on the field.”