The unmistakeable figure of Lionel Messi
What is left to say about Lionel Messi? Whether or not he is the greatest footballer of all time is a debate which will forever go without a definitive answer, but statistically at least there is nobody who compares to the little Argentine genius.
He is the only player to win the Ballon d'Or three years in a row. He is the only player to be European Cup top scorer four years in a row. He is the only player to score five goals in a Champions League match, nobody has ever scored more goals in a La Liga season and nobody has ever scored more in a calendar year.
The list of accolades accrued over the duration of 2012 don't end there, as illustrated in this account courtesy of the Guardian.co.uk, but just how far can Lionel Messi go?
Well, for a start he's likely to extend his winning sequence of Ballon d'Or's when the award is given out again in Zurich on January 7, and with Barcelona currently nine points clear at the top of Primera Division he is also on course for a sixth La Liga title.
At the beginning of 2012 few were aware of Gerd Muller's record of 86 official goals for club and country, but since Messi smashed past that tally in December, the question being asked now is not whether it will ever be beaten, but whether Messi can go on and better it again.
In truth we will only know by this time next year. If he picks up an injury which keeps him out for a few weeks then the feat is unlikely, but a look at his goal-scoring ratios in recent years offers some encouragement.
In total Messi accrued a staggering 91 goals in all competitions for both Barca and Argentina in 2012—goals scored in just 69 games.
That equates to a phenomenal strike-rate of 1.31 goals per game, but already since the beginning of the 2012-13 season Messi has found the net an additional 40 times in just 32 games, and 28 of those have come in his last 20 appearances.
Last season Barcelona only didn't feature in one game that they could have—the Champions League final, after they were defeated in the semi's to Chelsea. A look forward across 2013 shows the Catalans have another 21 league rounds to play with the potential for a maximum of 13 others, including the Copa del Rey and Champions League.
Argentina also have a further five fixtures planned, meaning that between now and the end of the season the boy from Rosario could be involved in another 39 games and based on his current form that could end up in close to 90 goals for 2012-13.
Skipping along into next season, the Camp Nou club will likely be involved in up to 20 La Liga fixtures before the turn of the year, two Spanish Super Cup games, six Champions league group clashes and another four Copa del Rey ties with the Argentines set for a further five matches before 2013 is out.
Therefore, all in all, Messi could be set for anything upwards of 75 games—with the potential of another three if Barcelona reclaim the European Cup—in 2013, and if the world's best player can appear in the majority of those, who can say how many times he will end up finding the back of the net?
As ever though, simply talking about Lionel Messi does not do him justice. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then this article and all previously written about him would never end.
So, enough of the reading, sit back and enjoy the video of all 91 of his brilliant record-breaking goals scored during 2012.