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Which player has scored the most goals in a calendar year?

Which player has scored the most goals in a calendar year? It’s a question that is regularly asked and one to which we have the answer.

Argentinian forward Lionel Messi is the man in question and you would be hard-pushed to imagine anyone overhauling what he achieved in 2012.

Let’s take a closer look at which players have scored the most goals in a calendar year, before focusing on who tops the list in international football.

Most Club & International Goals in Calendar Year

Lionel Messi – 91 goals (2012)

Officially recognised by Guinness World Records, Lionel Messi’s tally of 91 goals in 2012 is the most scored by any player in a calendar year.

The Argentinian playmaker’s total came in 69 appearances for club and country and broke a record set 40 years earlier by German striker Gerd Muller.

Messi netted 59 goals in 38 La Liga appearances, 13 in 12 Champions League games and seven in other domestic competitions in Spain. He bagged another 12 for Argentina.

Oddly, his goalscoring exploits failed to help Barcelona win either La Liga or the Champions League at the end of the 2011/12 season.

Despite this, averaging almost 1.32 goals per game during a calendar year in the modern era is a phenomenal achievement.

Gerd Muller – 85 goals (1972)

Long before Messi was even born, prolific German striker Gerd Muller was taking the art of goalscoring into a completely different stratosphere.

He enjoyed a memorable year in 1972, helping Bayern Munich win the Bundesliga title before starring as West Germany claimed the European Championship.

Muller netted 85 goals during the calendar year – a feat that fired him past the previous record set by Brazilian star Pele in 1958.

The German legend ended his trophy-laden career as the all-time top scorer in the Bundesliga with 365 goals in 427 appearances.

He also bagged 68 goals in 62 games for West Germany, with 14 of that total coming in two World Cup finals tournaments in 1970 and 1974.

Pele – 75 goals (1958)

For people who are old enough to remember football during the 20th century, Pele is the undisputed greatest player of all time.

His goalscoring exploits for club and country are legendary, although debates still rage about his official final career tally.

What is not in dispute are the 75 goals he scored in 1958, six of which helped Brazil win the first of their five World Cup titles.

He was the youngest-ever player to feature at the tournament at the time, although Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside subsequently took that record off him in 1982.

Pele’s 75-goal tally in 1958 was not a fluke as he nearly matched the feat seven years later by netting 72 for club and country in 1965.

Most International Goals in a Calendar Year

Sandor Kocsis – 23 goals (1954)

Before the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, it would be fair to say that the country’s international football team was one of the best in the world.

One of their standout performers was Sandor Kocsis, who was part of the line-up that famously dismantled England at Wembley Stadium in 1953.

His most prolific year in international football came the following year when he netted a staggering 23 goals in just 14 appearances.

Kocsis was the top goalscorer in the 1954 World Cup with 11 goals, a record at the time for goals in a single tournament.

He was also the first player to score two hat-tricks in a World Cup but ended up on the losing side in the final as West Germany lifted the trophy.

Just Fontaine – 18 goals (1958)

Just Fontaine is best known for scoring the most goals in a single edition of the World Cup, netting 13 in six matches for France in 1958.

He ended the year with 18 goals in 12 appearances – a tally that included a four-goal haul in the third-place play-off against West Germany.

At the conclusion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Fontaine was joint-fourth on the list of all-time top scorers at the tournament alongside Messi.

Only Miroslav Klose (16), Ronaldo (15) and Muller (14) have scored more, and each needed two or more tournaments to achieve the feat.

Injury problems forced Fontaine to retire from football in 1962, but he remains widely regarded as one of the best strikers ever to grace international football.

Lionel Messi – 18 goals (2022)

We finish our look at the players who scored the most goals in a calendar year where we started, with Messi getting another thoroughly deserved mention.

The Paris Saint-Germain star went into 2022 with a point to prove, having never previously won a World Cup winner’s medal with Argentina.

Messi rectified the issue in style in Qatar, netting seven goals in seven appearances to help Argentina lift the prestigious trophy for the third time.

His exploits at the World Cup saw him end the year with a tally of 18 international goals in 14 appearances and finally cemented his status as the greatest player of all time.

Messi’s longevity at the top level coupled with his World Cup success ends the debate once and for all and it may be some time before we see someone like him again.