To virtually no one's surprise, Argentine and Barcelona star Lionel Messi was named the 2013 Ballon d'Or winner. After scoring 91 goals in all competitions for club and country in 2012, winning his fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or seemed a mere formality.
From FIFA's Twitter account:
The winner of the FIFA #Ballondor 2012 is Lionel Messi— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) January 7, 2013
Really, there is no better reaction to Messi again winning this award than to simply sit back and watch this man work. He's truly awe-inspring.
Thankfully, ESPN tweeted a mashup of every goal the star scored this year. Brilliant!
To celebrate Messi’s 4th straight Ballon d’Or, here’s video of every one of his 91 record breaking goals -> bit.ly/WElz4e— ESPN (@espn) January 7, 2013
Here's that video. Enjoy.
Perhaps we should all sit back and admire his jacket on the evening as well. It was an... interesting fashion statement, as FOX Soccer had a bit of fun pointing out:
C'mon! You gotta love that jacket! Lionel Messi: Fashion Icon? twitter.com/FOXSoccer/stat…— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) January 7, 2013
Then again, when you score 91 goals in a calendar year, your jacket can pretty much say whatever the hell it wants, right?
As to be expected, athletes quickly took to Twitter and expressed their respect for Messi. Jerome Boateng of Bayern Munich had nothing but kind words for the maestro of goals:
Congratulation to messi he is the best in the world he deserve it more then anyone else the world can be happy to see a player like this !— Jerome Boateng (@JB17Official) January 7, 2013
Louis Saha of Sunderland has decided that, given Messi's dominance, an entirely new award should be created:
FIFA need to invent a new trophy for Messi if he wins it again. Ballon de diamant. Congrats to him. #4thballondOr.— louis saha (@louissaha08) January 7, 2013
Athletes weren't the only ones singing Messi's praises—journalists got in the act as well. And while he wouldn't go so far as to name Messi the best player of all time, Phil McNulty of BBC Sport crowned the Argentine a king among his peers:
The argument about who is the greatest footballer ever can never be definitive. Different eras & different game. But this is the Messi era.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) January 7, 2013
It's hard to argue with that. And respected soccer scribe Guillem Balague isn't about to argue that point. However, he would argue that a Spanish player probably should have beaten out Messi at least once in his four-year Ballon d'Or reign:
Messi, best in the world, not his best year:a mirror of the football circus that no Spaniard of this golden generation has won a Ballon d'Or— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) January 7, 2013
One thing that may surprise you, however, is the percentage of the vote Messi received. Frankly, it was a smaller number than I expected (via FIFA on Twitter):
After collating all the votes from journalists, national team coaches & captains, Lionel Messi claimed 41.6% of the #Ballondor vote— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) January 7, 2013
I think that speaks to the talent level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta, and the respect each player is given around the world. For Messi to score 91 goals this year and still win by a reasonable margin speaks highly of each player, and frankly, to the quality of players in the world today.
Speaking of Ronaldo, the Portuguese star did his best to look happy for Messi. He didn't quite pull it off, however, as Ives Galarcep of Soccer by Ives captured:
Ives, I need more pictures of Ronaldo's reaction! Help a brother out!
Look, Ronaldo was excellent in 2012. He led Real Madrid to the La Liga title. He scored 40 goals in his second straight La Liga season. He continued to be the second-best player on the planet.
But the jokes are going to come at his expense. We all know this. Mirror Football was one of the first on the scene with a dig:
Lionel Messi wins his fourth Ballon d'Or to the surprise of no one...except perhaps Ronaldo who was last seen crying in the toilets— MirrorFootball (@MirrorFootball) January 7, 2013
We kid, we kid, Cristiano—any other year, I don't doubt you would have won this award. But how could anyone have competed with 91 goals?
Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth, force out a grin and admit when you've been bested. After all, losing an award to Messi is nothing to hang your head about.
And something you should probably expect to continue.