Lionel Messi is brilliant. Simple. Journalists around the world are running out of superlatives to describe the Argentine’s constant record-breaking performances as he scores magical goal upon goal, leaving a certain Cristiano Ronaldo frustrated that he was born in the same generation.
Blink and you’ll miss him. His mercurial feet, outrageous vision and ball control many can only dream of have left me gaping at the TV screen more often than not. There’s no doubt that you’ll tell your grandkids stories of La Pulga ’s numerous goals and (hopefully) how Pelé finally accepted that yes, he is better than Neymar.
On Sunday evening, Barcelona played Espanyol in the Catalan derby, winning 4-0; if you didn’t already know, Messi scored all four to become the first player ever to score 8 hat-tricks in La Liga. He surpassed Pelé’s personal best of 75 for Santos and Brazil in 1958: Messi has 77 for his club and Argentina. Simultaneously, he extended his own goal scoring record, leaving Gerd Muller further behind as goals 69, 70, 71 and 72 found their way past Espanyol’s Cristian Alvarez, the depressed keeper who like many others found himself helpless as Messi ran riot at Camp Nou. Therefore, he became Europe’s highest goal scorer of all time-not only in a major league, but in every professional league in the world. And that’s what interests me.
As you may have noticed, I’ll be mentioning William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean in this article. Born in Birkenhead, Wirral in 1907, he played for Tranmere Rovers, Everton, Notts County, Sligo Rovers (in Ireland) and Ashton United (then Hurst Cross) before the outbreak of war hindered his career. He also won 16 caps for England, scoring 18 goals. On Merseyside he is the greatest player, and always will be, that the area has ever produced. The centre-forward was already a prolific goal scorer before an unstoppable, incredible, mesmerising season. In 1927/28, he scored 60 league goals in Division 1, as Everton’s pursuit of the title ended in success. 60 league goals.
Additionally, if you aren’t already wondering why Dean isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Pelé, Maradona and Messi, he achieved that still-standing record after fracturing his skull and jaw in a motorcycling accident, later winning another Division 1 championship, a Division 2 title, an FA charity Shield and one FA cup. A vast amount of those 60 goals came from his head (after doctors warned him not to play football again), with a ball made of thick, heavy leather in conditions that make Sunday Leagues look professional. In all, he scored 383 goals in 433 games for the Toffees, a record that speaks for itself.
We’ve all seen videos of Pelé and Maradona running rings around confounded defenders, leaving us wondering how it is even possible and excited for more from Messi and Ronaldo. Even Neymar, if he does move to Europe, may prove Pelé right and leave the world in a similar state of amazement. In England, Robin van Persie’s goal tally is certainly unfaultable, earning him deserved end of season awards. Whether playing or retired, prolific goal scorers have always taken the limelight and will continue to do so.
Therefore, it confuses me why Dean hardly gets a mention as one of those goal scoring greats. He certainly lives on in the memory of Merseyside-Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere fans all know his name-but does everyone else? Travelling fans may have seen the bronze statue of ‘Dixie’ erected outside Goodison Park. Dean died in the stands at Goodison in 1980 after suffering a heart attack as Everton played Liverpool. His ashes are buried under the penalty spot facing the Gwladys Street stand. Liverpool’s Bill Shankly called him “the greatest centre-forward” to ever live….but would you?
Were you aware of Dean’s record? Do you have any stories of his playing days? Why do you think he isn’t mentioned in the same sentence as Pelé and Maradona? Let me know your thoughts below.
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