Lionel Messi, Pelé, Gerd Müller best goal scoring seasons era adjusted

Messi broke this season all time world record of goal scoring for a club, 73. How does this compare to other high goal scoring seasons of past greats? 67 Gerd Müller 72-73 was a European record for 39 years before Messi broke it. Pelé’s best goal scoring season was 1958 when he scored 66 goals.

But which of these incredible goal scoring seasons is the best one? Like, first glance you would say Pele’s and Müller’s seasons were better, because they played less games and had better goals per game ratio:

Messi 73/60 = 1,22 goals per game

Müller 67/49 = 1,37 goals per game

Pelé 66/46 = 1,43 goals per game

But then again, back then scoring was more of a premium than preventing goals, than nowadays. So it was easier to score on average and goals were scored in higher averages. Goal scoring averages per game in competitions which they played:

Pele 3,53 goals per game

Müller’s 3,51 goals per game

Messi’s 2,81 goals per game

So how do you measure so different situations, so different times? One viable method to examine these is the so called era adjusting, used widely also in sports, to compare goal totals in different eras. It basicly takes into account both of the previous arguments, goal scoring averages, and amount of games played.

First you take the average number of goals scored in the particular competitions players played, and compare them to the particular player. From this you get the era adjustment ratio. Then you compare the amount of games played, which you get the schedule adjustment ratio. The overall ratio you get when you multiply: era adjustment ratio x schedule ratio.

The adjustment shows how much better you were than the average goal scorer at the time, and with that comparison Messi’s 73 goals in 60 games is more impressive, or further away from the average, than example Pele’s 66 goals in 46 games. In this table we have era adjusted statistics of Messi’s, Müller’s and Pelé’s best goal scoring seasons:

Notes, data and calculations:

Statistics , , , , , ,

8 comments


  1. Hans-Peter Junkermann

    gerd müller has played 5 of bayern munichs 6 german leaque cup games 1972/73……
    here are the gameresults:
    1:…1860 munich-bayern munich 1:3, gerd müller 2 goals
    2….vfb stuttgart-bayern munich 2:3,gerd müller 3 goals
    3:…bayern hof-bayern munich 4:1,gerd müller 1 goal
    4:…bayern munich-1860 munich 5:3,gerd müller 3 goals
    5:…bayern munich-bayern hof 4:5,gerd müller 3 goals
    6….bayern munich-vfb stuttgart 1:2, müller didnt play

    gerd müller in his 5 games has scored 12 of bayern munichs 16 goals(75% of his team goals)…still bayern munich did loose 2 of this 5 games and the other against stuttgart at home without müller too……müller was phenomenal….

  2. afromong

    ummm have you seen the teams at the bottom of the Spanish league? have you seen how many goals Ronaldo scores in Spain compared to the Premier league? Messi is a great player but half the teams in the Spanish league would not get into the third tier of English football. So to say Muller got to play in crappy cups is bullshit. He scored more goals per games which made him a better player fact! these stat manipulations are bullshit!!

    • David

      I like how Premier League viewers always talk shit about La Liga.
      While La Liga teams advances further into the Champions League/Europa League than Premier Chokers.
      Heck even the top two teams didnt make through the first round…. pfft..
      And went on to not qualify for the Europa Final, thats right, by two La Liga teams.
      Pretty sad if you ask me.

    • Reader

      Messi scored only 11 goals in 31 games in 3rd and 4th division. They are obviously better teams than 1st division teams.

      In other words, they are both older and better now.

      Also, other La Liga teams are best of Europe (see Euro results). Also, players score more in average match in Premier league. Also, Premier league is more divided – they have 6 good teams and 14 clearly weaker teams – in terms of points. La Liga has 2 superior and about 14 good teams (see Euro results), then about 4 weak teams – in terms of points.

  3. RGS

    IT wasnt as easy to score goals from 1968 to 1978 as you think. Now is easier so it is the opposite. Plus you have more matches now than then. Plus FIFA objective is the show and they want to surpass the 1920-150 era where there have more goals per year than any other time. The way FIFA is working is with the ball aerodinamic that fit strikers to score a better amount goal that couldnt be score before. SO if we take into account that the 85 goal score Muller in 1972 is like 120 goals today a complete opposite from your analisis. In that era, was the era of the catenaccio (1968-1982 when catenaccio died) It was more difficult to score due to the ball caracteristic plus the defensive game adopted by some teams in europe. ALso you have another player scoring a good amount of goal, Ronaldo and he is like 20 goals behinds Messi while in the Gerd Muller era the closest one to Gerd Mueller was like 30 or 40 goals behind so that give an idea it wasnt that easy to score goals in that era. Check better your facts now and indeed record are meant to be broken and as time passes there are better chance to score more goals than less since player has better tools to work with, better soccer ball, better pitch which is a big advantage and you can ask Messi about that he couldnt score in Venezuela when Argentina lost for their first time in their history and Messi complained a lot about the field pitch that was awful, imagine him playing then. So if I go to give you a realistic analisis it will be completly the opposite of what you wrote there

    • SMF

      hahah lol dont make me laugh ronaldo and messi are to amazing players but there are other players out there that are no were close to them. it just so happens that these two young stars are in the same era. pele came early for his era and played against lower class team, and muller era there were not to many players that just only played soccer. in todays day and age the lower class team in any division are getting paid million/s (1m/year) to play soccer while back then soccer was considered to be a second option for many players, and their goalies and defense were not up to par with their attack. in a single year, back then they had more goals per season that in todays seasons. that go to show how much goaltending and defense tactic have improved. look at the other top players in the world they can only score a max on 40 goals and that itself is an accomplishment, thus showing that these players have alot more skill than players from the past. in terms on club levels he has already surpass any great player that ever lived. he only need to win a world cup to prove to ppl that hate of him that he is the best ever.

  4. thersonlyonepele

    Pele played just over 1300 games if memory serves well, and scored just under 1300 goals in recognisedly competetive games! Only one third of his games/goals are available on tape!

  5. thersonlyonepele

    Pele played just over 1300 games if memory serves well, and scored just under 1300 goals in recognisedly competetive games! Only one third of his games/goals are available on tape! check out youtube. black and white very grainy film but observe the magic! Three World Cups and could have been four if Eusabio’s Portugal hadn’t kicked him off the park in 1966! Only ONE god played football! PELE!!!!

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