Football is all about goals. Putting the ball in the back of the net. That’s not to say that defenders who earn those hard-fought clean sheets are any less good than those attackers.
But this is where everything changes. Putting the ball in the back of the net consistently is not what every striker or attacker is capable of. Let alone top the scoring charts in a calendar year. When considered in a football season-wise, 20+ goals is regarded as a very good season. 30 goals and you’ve already done the best you can.
Now coming to topping scoring charts in a calendar year. On paper, it looks like a much easier task than topping charts in a season, but it’s not. FootTheBall takes a look at the players who have the most goals in a calendar year.
Lionel Messi – Barcelona & Argentina: 91 goals (2012)
During the 2012 calendar year, Lionel Messi had the best individual season of his career. The little magician scored a whooping 91 goals in 2012, scoring 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina.
It might have been a very good season on an individual basis for Messi, although Barcelona failed as a collective unit. The Catalans finished 2nd in La Liga and lost to Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals. The Argentine also had a stunning 22 assists from 69 appearances that calendar year.
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Gerd Muller – Bayern Munich & West Germany: 85 goals (1972)
Gerd Muller was known for his killer instincts in front of goal. The Bayern Munich legend scored a stunning 365 goals in the Bundesliga, with another Bavarian player close in the form of Robert Lewandowski with 278 goals.
The German also scored a massive 68 goals in 62 appearances for West Germany. His 85 goals record in a single calendar year stood for nearly 40 years before Lionel Messi entered the frame and shattered all records for good.
Pele – Santos & Brazil: 75 & 72 goals (1958 & 1965)
Brazil legend Pele announced himself as a 17-year-old kid back in 1958 and did it in some style. He played most of his football for Santos during the entirety of his career, winning the 1958 World Cup in the process.
Pele did it once again seven years later, although this time he couldn’t beat his own record. The legend scored 72 goals in 1965, falling three short of beating his own record.
Zico – Flamengo & Brazil: 72 goals (1979)
The man who is also known as the ‘White Pele’. He might not have broken the original Pele’s record of 72 or 75 goals in a calendar year, but his quality is not something that could’ve been questioned.
He had scored most goals of his career from direct free-kicks but that doesn’t take away the fact that he was a quality finisher both inside and outside the box. Of his 200-plus goals for boyhood club Flamengo, 101 of those were from direct free-kicks.
Romario – Vasco da Gama & Brazil: 72 goals (2000)
By now it might look like this list is being dominated by the Brazilians. Romario is another one of those Brazilians who played with such elegance when on the pitch and dazzled the fans with his runs in the box and finishing.
In the 2000 calendar year, he was the best footballer on the planet scoring 72 goals that year, while playing for both Vasco da Gama and the Brazilian national team. He is also Brazil’s fourth-highest goalscorer and only behind Pele, Neymar and Ronaldo Nazario.
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich & Poland: 69 goals (2021)
The only player in the history of football who might have not won the Ballon d’Or despite completing club football in 2021 and most goals that calendar year. Lewandowski won a staggering six trophies with Bayern in 2021 and scored 69 goals in that process.
The 2020 Ballon d’Or was cancelled due to Covid-19 at its peak at that time. But considering the fact that the Polish international ruled club football that year, that shouldn’t have been the case.
Nevertheless, Robert Lewandowski is one of the players to make it into the list of most goals in a calendar year, and that is no mean feat to achieve.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid & Portugal: 69 goals (2013)
The list began with one great – Messi, and ends with another great – Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013 year and under Mourinho wreaked havoc for the whole of La Liga. The Portugal duo of player and manager, combined with Real Madrid’s other two attacking assets in Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, there was no stopping Los Blancos.
Ronaldo was obviously the main man in the trio, scoring 69 goals in 15 appearances, while also adding 15 assists to his name. 10 of those goals came for the Portugal national team. This was Ronaldo at his peak and til day remains the best season of his career.