Lionel Messi scores twice as Barcelona beat Mallorca 4-2 on Sunday
Argentine forward moves past Pele's landmark 75 goals in a calendar year
He now has nine more matches to beat the record set by Gerd Muller in 1972
Messi's rival Cristiano Ronaldo suffers eye injury in Real Madrid victory
The goals just keep flowing for Lionel Messi, who on Sunday surpassed soccer legend Pele’s mark of 75 in a calendar year to help Barcelona bounce back from a rare defeat.
The Argentina star netted twice in the 4-2 win at Mallorca that kept the Catalans three points clear in Spain’s La Liga, leaving him just nine short of Gerd Muller’s all-time record.
The 25-year-old, who became a first-time father earlier this month, was able to put a bit more enthusiasm into his new thumb-sucking celebration than when he scored late in the shock midweek Champions League loss to Scottish side Celtic.
“Leo continually breaks records. His goal tally is spectacular,” said Barca manager Tito Vilanova, who has yet to experience a domestic league defeat after his first 11 matches in charge, equaling the best start to a season set by Real Madrid.
“It takes other great players seven or eight seasons to score the amount of goals he scores in one season. Also, some of his goals are absolute beauties.”
Messi has now scored 64 goals for his club and 12 for his country this year, from just 59 matches overall.
Pele managed 75 from 53 as a 17-year-old in 1958, helping Brazil to win the World Cup for the first of a record five times.
Muller, a World Cup winner in 1974, surpassed Pele’s record in a year that West Germany won the European Championship.
Messi has yet to win a senior title with Argentina, though he won Olympic gold with the under-23 side in 2008.
He has nine matches left this year to catch Muller – six in La Liga, two in the Champions League and one in the Spanish Cup.
His two goals against Malaga gave him 15 in the league this season, three clear of his big rival Cristiano Ronaldo – who scored the opener in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win on a waterlogged pitch at Levante in Sunday’s late match.
Ronaldo, switched to a central attacking role with Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain out injured, suffered an early blow above the eye and was taken off at halftime.
The Portugal captain is now Real’s seventh highest league scorer with 124 goals since his arrival from Manchester United in 2009 in a world-record $130 million transfer.
Levante leveled in the second half through Angel Rodriguez, but 20-year-old Alvaro Morata headed an 84th-minute winner with his first touch of the ball on his debut to keep Jose Mourinho’s third-placed defending champions eight points behind Barcelona.
Real inflicted Levante’s first home defeat this season, hitting the crossbar twice and missing a penalty by Xabi Alonso, whose late freekick set up substitute Morata’s winner.
Atletico Madrid retained second place after beating Getafe 2-0.
Adrian Lopez scored a first-half opener after his initial attempt was saved, while Arda Turan’s second-half effort was allowed to stand despite a clear handball in the buildup.
In Italy, Inter Milan failed to reduce Juventus’ four-point lead after suffering a surprise 3-2 defeat at Atalanta.
Veteran striker German Denis netted in the 60th and 67th minutes to put the home side 3-1 ahead, while Inter reduced the deficit through his fellow Argentine Rodrigo Palacio before Atalanta substitute Facundo Parra was sent off in time added on.
Napoli stayed third with a 4-2 win at Genoa, while fourth-placed Fiorentina won 3-1 away to troubled 2010-11 Serie A champions AC Milan.
Milan’s sixth defeat in 12 league games left last season’s runners-up in 13th place, with coach Massimiliano Allegri’s future increasingly in doubt.
Lazio consolidated fifth place with a 3-2 win in the capital derby against Roma, as both teams had a player sent off.
In Germany, Bayer Leverkusen missed the chance to go above fourth-placed champions Borussia Dortmund after losing 3-1 to third-bottom Wolfsburg.
Leverkusen stayed a point above Hanover, who won 4-2 at Stuttgart.