Ballon d'Or 2013: With Fourth Win, Lionel Messi Makes the Case for Best Ever

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJanuary 7, 2013

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 07:  Lionel Messi of Argentina receives the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 trophy on January 7, 2013 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

With news today (via ESPN) that Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or award, the Argentinian continues to build his epic legacy. With this award coming as his record-breaking fourth Ballon d'Or, Messi has made his case for best ever.

Messi kicked off his year right, capturing one of the most prestigious awards in World Football. Of course, it's nothing new to Messi, who has now taken home the Ballon d'Or each of the last four years.

The award—a hybrid of France's Ballon d'Or and FIFA's player of the year—is awarded each year to the best player in the world. Only this time, it may have been once again given to the best player ever.

Created in 2010, the FIFA Ballon d'Or never had a chance to be presented to a Pele or Maradona, but who knows if even they would have been able to repeat what Messi has?

Riding the coattails of his record-setting 91 goals in 2012, it's a no-brainier Messi captured the award. But both of those records are just part of a long list of achievements he has ties to.

Others include two Spanish Cups, two Club World Cups and an Olympic gold medal. Messi has led the Champions League in scoring four years running, including a record-breaking 14 goals in 2011-12.

That's just the short list. And at 25 years old, the sky is still the limit for Messi.

He's become an incredibly efficient scorer. Given his pace—depending on how long he plays for—Messi could challenge Pele for the honor of best scorer of all time.

But because all things change with time, it's still hard to compare Messi's achievements to those of Pele and Maradona. Can we really estimate how many times they could have captured the Ballon d'Or?

To those who think that way, don't let it detract from the significance of these awards.

Yes, great players of the past have never had a chance to win either award, but great players of today have and none have ever won four.

Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini never won more than three Ballon d'Or awards. That should tell you something right now.

And who knows how many more Messi could win? If his 91 goals this year were a sign of anything, it's that he's not slowing down.

Even if Messi doesn't go down as the best player ever, he'll certainly be remembered as one of the greats.