To score 251 La Liga goals throughout his Barcelona football career is most certainly a phenomenal achievement for Argentinian international Lionel Messi and he is now the proud holder of the record total of league goals in Spanish football league history. Yet while Messi can be commended for staying loyal to the Catalonian club since moving there in 2000, the previous record was set by a footballer who played for several lower teams in the Basque region but who devoted 15 years of his playing life for Athletic Bilbao.
Telmo Zarra netted 251 league goals in twelve less appearances than Messi and is still the highest goalscorer in Copa del Rey history with 81 goals, yet surprisingly he only earned 20 Spanish international caps. He still scored 20 goals for his country but it was perhaps his Basque roots during the post Spanish Civil War era which may have cost him further international recognition as Madrid became the focal point for football in the country.
Zarra was forced to contend with several serious injuries and national service during his 15 years at Bilbao and he eventually left the club when he was 34 years old with younger players replacing him in the team. Had he stayed injury free for the majority of his playing career, it is conceivable that he would have netted at least 100 league goals more than his old record.
Lionel Messi surpassed Zarra’s the record at the weekend by notching a hat-trick against Sevilla in a 5-1 victory, but the Argentinian forward is only 27 years old and still at the peak of his powers. With his transfer value estimated far in excess of 100 million euros, and any serious bids unlikely from other top European clubs at that price, scoring 400 league goals in Spanish league football is a very attainable target.
Alongside the two Madrid teams, it is probable that Barcelona will dominate domestic football for the foreseeable future and with Neymar and Luis Suarez alongside him in attack, Messi will probably share the goal burden more than in previous seasons but his tally will continue to increase and further records will tumble.
Messi could eventually set a goals record which will never be beaten as there are few players currently in La Liga capable of overhauling the Argentinian. Cristiano Ronaldo has netted fewer goals and is two years older whereas Neymar is five years younger but has yet to demonstrate the goals per game ratio of his elder. Neymar is certainly proving himself to be a competent striker but there is also the possibility that he will be tempted to move to another European football team as his career develops.
For now Messi deserves the plaudits for goalscoring exploits but for the player whose record he overhauled, international fame has suddenly been bestowed upon a previously unheralded Basque forward called Telmo Zarronandia Montoya.