Lionel Messi: Ranking His Seasons so Far for Barcelona
Lionel Messi scored 72 goals for Barcelona in all competitions this season, but this year's performance has probably not been his best at Camp Nou.
The Argentine has won every trophy and personal accolade apart from the World Cup, and he is only 24—at least for one more month. His eight seasons at Barcelona have seen him transform from footballing prodigy to, arguably, the best player in the world.
Given the number of players who never manage to fulfill their promise and potential, the fact Messi has surpassed all expectations should be celebrated.
Ranking Messi's best seasons proves to be a difficult task. Performance, awards and the success of his team all have to be taken into consideration.
Messi has contributed to four La Liga titles, three Champions League winning sides and led Barca to numerous other cups. He has also won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards on three separate occasions.
From Messi's debut, to his record breaking exploits this season, here are the Atomic Flea's best seasons at Barcelona.
2004-05 and 2005-2006
It seemed only fair to lump Messi's first two seasons at Barcelona together. Frank Rijkaard gave Messi his debut in 2004 at the age of 17, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Messi would spend the next two seasons honing his talents and impressing everyone with his raw skills. He managed eight appearances and a goal during his first season.
Things would only get better for Messi in 2005/06. He would play in 23 games and notch seven goals for Barcelona.
His season ended early because of a thigh injury, missing out on Barcelona's Champions League triumph.
The stage had been set, however. Messi was about to take the world by storm.
The 2006-07 season was one of transition for Barcelona. Messi became first choice at Camp Nou and established himself as a force to be reckoned with.
On a personal level, it was a very good season for the 19 year old Messi. He scored 14 goals in La Liga and showed himself to be a threat. He had several breathtaking performances, including a hat trick against Real Madrid.
However, Barcelona's season was filled with disappointment after doing the double the season before. They were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool in Round 16, and Real Madrid secured the league title by the slimmest of margins.
Things would only continue to get better for Messi.
Lionel Messi established himself as one of the elite players in the world during the 2007-08 season. Unfortunately, his team could not match the success of its star player.
Barcelona finished third in La Liga and suffered semifinal defeats in both the Champions League and Copa del Rey. The team was in the process of massive changes as both Frank Rijkaard and the Ronaldinho era would come to end after the season.
The faults of Barcelona were by no means an indicator of how the Argentine played. Messi impressed in La Liga scoring 10 goals and notching 12 assists. He added another eight goals in the Champions League.
The only blight on his season was another muscle tear which sidelined him again.
Messi was becoming an unstoppable figure both domestically and in Europe, and he was only going to get better. That was, of course, if he could avoid the injures that had troubled him in his first few seasons.
This is a ranking that is likely to cause some controversy, but Messi's 2009-10 season comes in at fourth on this list.
Messi had a great season on a personal level. He led Barcelona in scoring, both in the league with 34 goals and in all competitions with 47 goals. His ten assists in all competitions was his lowest total in three seasons.
Barcelona also suffered to a certain extent. After winning a treble the previous year, expectations were high. They still managed a treble for the second year running, but it was not quite the treble the club was hoping for.
The Catalan side once again finished first in La Liga and added a UEFA Supercup and Club World Cup to their trophy cabinet.
Inter Milan stifled Messi during the Champions League semifinals as Barcelona were unable to defend their crown. A surprise upset in the Copa del Rey to Sevilla also prevented them from retaining that trophy.
It was hardly a bad year; Messi has just had better.
The 2008-09 season saw Lionel Messi's coronation as a footballing great. Under new manager Pep Guardiola, Messi guided Barcelona to a superb treble after two trophy-less seasons.
With Ronaldinho out of the picture, Messi took over the number ten shirt and never looked back.
Messi racked up 38 goals in all competitions to lead Barca in scoring. He added 16 assists to the cause as well.
The destruction of Manchester United in Rome will be one of the most memorable moments in Messi's career. It was truly a special moment in football history, unless you were a Manchester United fan.
If this list was based solely on personal accomplishments, 2011-12 easily be the first place on this list.
Messi's 50 goals in La Liga and new European record of 72 goals in all competitions are simply mind boggling, and it does not stop there. He also managed 23 assists this season as well.
The Argentine was involved in 95 of Barcelona's 187 goals this season. Messi was responsible for over 50 percent of his team's goal this season.
That is amazing.
What is not amazing is the fact Barcelona may finish the season without a major trophy. They square off against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final in what is the team's last chance at silverware.
Real Madrid finally managed to retake La Liga, and this season's Champions League campaign was ended by Chelsea at the semifinal stage.
Barcelona did manage to capture another Club World Cup and UEFA Supercup, but neither honor are ones people particularly care about.
Messi's season was one of the greatest in history, but cannot be considered his best at Barcelona.
Messi's 2010-11 performance was the perfect blend of personal achievement and team success. It was a thing of beauty.
The Atomic Flea ended the season with an incredible—at least it seemed that way before this season—50 goals in all competitions. It was not just the quantity of goals, many of his strikes were a joy to behold.
On top of the 50 goals, Messi tallied another 21 assists. He delivered every time his team needed him.
Barcelona ended the season with another La Liga title and another Champions League triumph. It cemented Messi's status as the best in the world and put him on the path of being one of the all-time greats.
It may be a controversial selection, but the 2010-11 season was the best one of Messi's still young career.