Why 2012 Was the Year of Lionel Messi

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterDecember 27, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the la Liga match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium on December 16, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Unless Lionel Messi bests himself again in 2013, the world likely won't see again a year quite like the little Argentine's magical 2012.

For some, 2012 will go down as the year Spain claimed a place among international football's greatest teams. For others, it will be about Chelsea's unlikely run to the UEFA Champions League title or Mexico's even-more-unlikely gold medal at the Olympics.

None of us, however, could escape Messi in 2012. Nor did we want to.

The miniature maestro was everywhere, scoring goals by the dozens and bamboozling helpless defenses for the fun of it. A flick of his left boot could send multitudes into raptures, and his unprecedented scoring form at the highest level of the modern game made the world stand still.

As a player, he currently stands without equal. As a human being, he projects images of humility, selflessness and team play. As a phenomenon, he reached his greatest heights so far in 2012.

That, in short, is why 2012 was the year of Messi.

The final numbers are staggering. In 2011-12, he set a La Liga record with 50 goals (via The Independent). In all competitions, he finished last season with 73 goals—a world record (via Fox Sports). Both marks seem destined to fall—with Messi as the new record-setter once again—by the end of this campaign.

At the end of the year, he set another world record by passing Gerd Muller's mark of 85 goals in a calendar year in 1972 (via The Guardian). He finished the year with 91 goals for club and country—another world record.

In fairness, 2012 was not Messi's most successful in terms of winning trophies. Barcelona finished second in the league to Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid and crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in the semifinals.

But Barca did win Spain's Copa del Rey, and regardless of trophies, no player had as much impact on his team as Messi. He scored once for every 66 minutes he was on the pitch (per ESPN FC), and he did it with free kicks, penalties, mazy runs, headers, tap-ins and a stunningly high number of golazos.

Barcelona, meanwhile, were built to bring out the best in Messi. Under former manager Pep Guardiola, Barca developed a possession-heavy style whose offensive focus settled on Messi in the "false nine" role. Messi flourished under Guardiola and has matured even further under first-year manager Tito Vilanova.

Still just 25, Messi seems capable of anything in football. Titles, records and endless adulation are only the beginning.

That should be enough to convince even the strongest doubters that 2012 was Messi's year. If not, this should: Imagine, just for a moment, anyone else doing what Messi did in 2012. That won't happen, of course, because only Messi can accomplish the impossible.