Having already joined the elite ranks walked only by legends such as Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Michel Platini, January 2013 will see three-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, make football history.
On Thursday 29th November 2012, the Argentine attacker, along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta, was announced as one of those that would make up the final shortlist for the most prestigious individual award in world football, displaying no real surprises.
Since being officially renamed the “FIFA Ballon d’Or” in 2010, Messi has scooped up the only two trophies on offer, as well as claiming the last ever honour when in its original incarnation.
Anyone with an iota of the sport’s knowledge will have heard of Lionel Messi, thus is the Barcelona talisman’s influence on world football since emerging as a truly special talent in the last eight years or so.
As is only natural to the evolution of football, superstars come and go on a regular basis and are constantly being compared to the idols of generations gone by.
It would seem that awards such as these are the most official way to measure a player’s true ability, and while they may not be able to line up opposite those retired or otherwise, the amount of legacy they may have left lingers on.
Although Iniesta undoubtedly poses a serious threat to the title claims of others, the Spaniard will be looked upon as an outsider for the award, which has been won most regularly by far more offensive players.
Messi’s Barça teammate has undeniable skill as a playmaker, but his greatest asset is also his biggest downfall in instances such as these, where goals are regularly valued more than the groundwork that made them possible.
Therefore, that would leave Cristiano Ronaldo to be the most realistic competitor for Messi to duel with for votes this year, and rightfully so many would argue.
Last season saw the Portuguese national team captain net an incredible 60 goals, a rare and most sought after number by anyone’s standards.
How unfortunate for Ronaldo, however, that a marvel of Messi’s magnitude should reside in the same league as him—a marvel that rounded the campaign off with an even less believable total of 73 goals across all club competitions.
One could argue that by taking the La Liga title back from Barcelona, Real Madrid’s star man has proven his worth to the world on a more selfless scale, doing more for his team than Messi perhaps did.
However, the Ballon d’Or is an award of individual merit, and if his goal frequency alone isn’t enough to warrant another victory, Barcelona’s massive reliance upon the forward’s attacking presence should be.
After winning the last three consecutive Ballon d’Or crowns, momentum is certainly one thing working in Messi’s favour, and if restraint is a word in the dictionary of your everyday footballer, the South American doesn’t appear to know its meaning.
But then, why should he? Messi is by no means your average footballer and is relentless in the way he plays his game, breaking records for fun at times.
As of right now, a particular accolade Messi is currently shooting toward is breaking Gerd Müller’s incredible record for goals scored in a calendar year.
The prolific German managed to net 85 goals in the whole of 1972 during his days with Bayern Munich, the club where he truly cemented his place as one of the game’s greats.
As I write, Messi has scored a near-insurmountable tally of 82 goals, just three away from topping the Müller record established an incredible 40 years ago.
If prodigies such as this only come around once every half-century, any fan alive can count themselves as fortunate that they were present to witness Lionel Messi make it four victories in a row—four victories that may never be trumped other than by the man himself.
Given his achievements in the sport already, it’s easy to forget that Messi is only 25 years of age, two and three years younger than rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta, respectively.
The youth element is but another alluring factor of the speedster’s appeal, seeing one so young succeed on such a global scale, becoming a phenomenon in the process.
As if that wasn’t enough, Messi comes from a background that can only be looked upon as an underdog story, for in his childhood the pint-sized maestro suffered from a growth disorder.
Despite holding very obvious talent, River Plate could not afford the Argentine’s $900/month treatment, leaving the more profitable Barcelona to snap up his talent.
With the medical backing of the Catalan giants, Messi has grown like no player before him and is now a titan amongst men in the arena of football.
With three Champions League trophies, six La Liga crowns and two FIFA Club World Cups already in his cabinet, it’s fair to say that Messi contributes a lot to the unbridled success of the Barcelona machine and is arguably the sole reason they’ve won so much in recent years.
With the statistics of a legend but the apparent joy of a youngster just entering his career, Lionel Messi is currently at the forefront of the race for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or and will officially became the best player this sport has ever known in January 2013.
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