The players with the most goals in a calendar year: Messi, Ronaldo…

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Lionel Messi celebrates reacts after scoring for Barcelona. Camp Nou, November 2012..

Since the turn of the century, the footballing world has seen dozens of prolific strikers who have made goalscoring look easy.

But only a select group of players can claim that they’ve scored 50 goals or more for club and country during a single calendar year.

We’ve taken a look at the 10 highest-scoring calendar years by a player in the 21st century. Note: we’ve only included players that were playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues.

10. Lionel Messi

Messi probably won’t look back on 2014 with much fondness as Barcelona finished second in La Liga, lost the Copa del Rey final and got knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he then suffered World Cup final heartbreak as Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany at the Maracana Stadium

But the forward still enjoyed one of his best years on an individual level, scoring 50 goals in 52 games for Barcelona and eight in 14 for Argentina.

9= Lionel Messi

Yep, it’s that man again.

Messi scored 55 goals in 57 appearances for Barcelona in 2011, helping them win La Liga, the Champions League, the Supercopa de Espana, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

He also scored four goals in 13 appearances for Argentina, although that wasn’t enough to take them past the quarter-final stage at the Copa America.

9= Lionel Messi

After scoring 59 goals in all competitions in 2011, Messi managed to match that feat five years later.

It was another memorable year for him at club level as his 51 goals in 51 appearances helped Barcelona lift La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Supercopa de Espana.

The Argentina international registered eight goals for his country in 2016 and helped them reach the Copa America final, only to then lose in a penalty shootout against Chile.

7= Lionel Messi

Despite winning his first Ballon d’Or award in 2009, Messi refused to rest on his laurels and managed to retain the award in 2010.

During the calendar year, he scored 58 goals in 54 games for Barcelona, including four in one Champions League last-16 game against Arsenal.

But the winger only scored two goals in 10 appearances for Argentina and failed to get on the scoresheet at the 2010 World Cup.

READ: A forensic analysis of Lionel Messi’s amazing 2010 performance v Arsenal

7= Cristiano Ronaldo

Having watched Messi score 60 goals for club and country in 2010, Ronaldo managed to match that tally a year later.

The Portugal international took his game to another level under Jose Mourinho, scoring 53 goals in 52 Real Madrid appearances in 2011.

He also scored seven goals in eight international appearances, including two against Bosnia in the Euro 2012 play-offs.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo 

Ronaldo scored 56 goals in 51 appearances for Madrid in 2014, helping Los Blancos win a Copa del Rey title and their long-awaited Decima.

The forward also netted five goals for Portugal but struggled at the 2014 World Cup as they suffered an embarrassing group-stage exit.

Despite those struggles in Brazil, his brilliant performances at club level were enough to see him win a third Ballon d’Or.

READ: How Carlo Ancelotti ended Real Madrid’s 12-year wait for La Decima

4. Cristiano Ronaldo

After scoring 60 goals for club and country in 2011, Ronaldo looked to beat his own personal best the following year and didn’t disappoint.

He made 58 club appearances in 2012 and averaged a goal a game as Madrid usurped Barcelona and won their first La Liga title since 2008.

Alongside his 58 goals for Madrid, Ronaldo also scored five goals for Portugal, three of which came at Euro 2012.

3= Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid didn’t win a single trophy in 2013 and Mourinho was sacked but it is still Ronaldo’s best calendar year on an individual level.

The forward unsurprisingly won his second Ballon d’Or award after scoring 59 goals in just 50 Madrid appearances at a rate of one every 71.5 minutes.

He took his overall tally to 69 goals with 10 international strikes, including a hat-trick against Sweden to send Portugal to the 2014 World Cup.

3= Robert Lewandowski

After helping Bayern Munich win the treble in 2020, Lewandowski was robbed of the Ballon d’Or when it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

But he refused to feel sorry for himself and scored 58 goals in 57 Bayern appearances in 2021 as they won another Bundesliga title, a DFL Supercup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

The Poland international also scored three goals at the delayed Euro 2020 and eight goals during the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

1. Lionel Messi

Not only does Messi come out on top in this list, but he also finished 22 goals ahead of second place.

He scored a remarkable 79 goals in 60 appearances for Barcelona in 2012, although it still wasn’t enough to stop Real Madrid from winning La Liga or Chelsea winning the Champions League.

The forward also scored 12 goals in nine games for Argentina to take his overall tally to 91 goals in 69 appearances in 2012. Ninety-one goals for crying out loud.

We’d be amazed if anyone ever beats this record.


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