Do Penalties Hurt Messi’s 86 Goal Record?

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and not the biggest supporter of Lionel Messi. Recently, Zlatan has come out and tried to minimize the accomplishment of Messi breaking Gerd Muller’s record by scoring 86 goals in a calendar year by saying the following:

“I too would get 90 goals if I were given penalties as referees give them away to Barcelona.”

Approximately 16% (14 out of 86) of Messi’s goals came from the penalty spot in 2012. How does this percentage compare to the rest of the modern game? Let’s take a look at some totals for some of the best goalscorers so far in the 2012/2013 season…

With only one out of Messi’s 28 goals this season coming from the penalty spot, the statement by Ibrahimovic looks foolish. The big Swede should have checked his facts before making such a remark.

What is really surprising though is the high percentage of penalty goals for Falcao this season, a number which was at 45.5% until his five goal outburst yesterday. He already has scored off of six penalties this season, matching his entire total from the penalty spot last season (36 total goals scored last season, 16.7%). Take note, big spending clubs.

Cavani with already five penalties this season is also just one off of his mark from last season (6 penalties, 33 goals, 18.2%) and Ronaldo’s mark of 21.1% is actually pretty consistent with his percentage from last season (14 penalties scored, 59 goals, 23.7%).

One striker that really stands out as being underrated looking at these statistics is Stephan El Sharrawy, having scored 15 goals from open play (zero penalties) – a total more than Falcao, Cavani, Ibrahimovic, and Van Persie. Given the fact he is only 20 years old, he could really be a player to watch for the future. If he took penalties for Milan and had a penalty goal percentage on the level of a Cavani he could easily be on his way to a 40 goal season.

In conclusion, with only 16% of Messi’s 86 goals coming from the penalty spot I would be hesitant to tarnish his record because the percentage is fairly in-line with some of the top scorers in the game today. Given the fact that 12 of Gerd Muller’s goals in his 85 goals were scored in a “fund raiser Cup” and he scored zero from the penalty spot, I’d say Muller’s 12 Cup goals and Messi’s 14 penalties essentially cancel themselves out.


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