Football is about goals. Putting the ball in the back of the net. This does not mean that defenders who have a clean sheet are less good than attackers.
But here everything changes. Consistently placing the ball in the back of the net is not what every striker or striker is capable of. Not to mention topping the charts in a calendar year. Considering a football season, more than 20 goals is considered a very good season. 30 goals and you’ve already done your best.
Now it is approaching the top of the charts in a calendar year. On paper, this looks like a much easier task than topping the charts in a season, but it’s not. FootTheBall looks at the players who have scored the most goals in a calendar year.
Lionel Messi – Barcelona and Argentina: 91 goals (2012)
In the 2012 calendar year, Lionel Messi had the best individual season of his career. The little magician scored 91 goals in 2012, scoring 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina.
It could have been a very good season for Messi individually, although Barcelona failed as a team. The Catalans finished second in La Liga and lost to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League. The Argentine also had a staggering 22 assists in 69 appearances this calendar year.
— FootTheBall FC (@FootTheBallFC) May 24, 2023
Gerd Muller – Bayern Munich and West Germany: 85 goals (1972)
Gerd Muller was known for his killer instincts in front of goal. The Bayern Munich legend scored a staggering 365 Bundesliga goals and another Bavarian player was close to Robert Lewandowski with 278 goals.
The German also scored a whopping 68 goals in 62 appearances for West Germany. His record of 85 goals in a single calendar year stood for almost 40 years before Lionel Messi entered the squad and broke all records for good.
Pele – Santos and Brazil: 75 and 72 goals (1958 and 1965)
Brazilian legend Pele he announced himself as a 17-year-old in 1958, and he did so in style. He played most of his football for Santos throughout his career, winning the 1958 World Cup in the process.
Pele did it again seven years later, though this time he failed to break his own record. The legend scored 72 goals in 1965, three goals short of breaking his own record.
Zico – Flamengo and Brazil: 72 goals (1979)
The man also known as “White Pele”. He may not have broken Pele’s original record of 72 or 75 goals in a calendar year, but his quality is not something to question.
He scored most of his career goals from direct free kicks, but that didn’t change the fact that he was a top scorer both inside and outside the box. Of the over 200 goals scored for his childhood club Flamengo, 101 of them came from direct free kicks.
Romário – Vasco da Gama and Brazil: 72 goals (2000)
At the moment, it may seem that this list is dominated by Brazilians. Romario is another of those Brazilians who played with such elegance on the pitch and dazzled the fans with runs into the box and finishing touches.
In the calendar year 2000, he was the best footballer in the world, scoring 72 goals that year, playing for both Vasco da Gama and the Brazilian national team. He is also Brazil’s fourth top scorer and only behind Pele, Neymar and Ronaldo Nazario.
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich and Poland: 69 goals (2021)
The only player in football history who may not have won the Golden Ball despite finishing club football in 2021 and scoring most goals in that calendar year. Lewandowski won a staggering six trophies with Bayern in 2021 and scored 69 goals in the process.
The 2020 Ballon d’Or was canceled due to Covid-19 at its peak at the time. But given the fact that the Polish international ruled club football at the time, this should not have been the case.
Still, Robert Lewandowski is one of the players on the list with the most goals in a calendar year, and that’s no mean feat.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid and Portugal: 69 goals (2013)
The list started with one great – Messi, and ends with the next great – Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo wreaked havoc across La Liga in 2013 and under Mourinho. The Portuguese player and manager duo, coupled with two of Real Madrid’s other attacking strengths in Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, couldn’t resist whites.
Ronaldo was obviously the star player in the trio, scoring 69 goals in 15 appearances as well as adding 15 assists to his name. 10 of those goals were scored for Portugal. It was Ronaldo at his prime and remains to this day the best season of his career.