No one was surprised when Lionel Messi won his fourth straight Ballon d'Or, considering the incredible success he had in 2012. That the Barcelona star was incredible in 2012 was little surprise. Messi has become accustomed to following success with more success. Expect no different in 2013.
This article could be one sentence long. The world-famous striker will once again be the best attacker in the world, Barca will again be the best club in football and another Ballon d'Or is realistic, if not likely. However, cutting this article short would be a disservice to his greatness.
Part of what makes Messi special is how he operates within the flow of his club. With great footballers like David Villa, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, he is surrounded by stars. Despite that, he has taken nearly 70 shots more than the next closest player and has 22 more goals than anyone else on the club.
Even surrounded by stars, Messi stands out. He elevates the play of his teammates as much as they elevate him.
Just look at his highlights. Messi handles the ball like a wizard. At one point, he escaped four defenders, all within feet of him, and got a brilliant shot off. No other player in the world can do that.
What does that mean for 2013? As long as Messi is healthy, he will be the best. Barca will be the best.
Let's rain on the parade a little, though. Messi won't score 91 goals again in a calender year. 2012 really was a once-in-a-lifetime run, and his 91 goals is a record that will not be touched for some time.
The stars aligned for Messi in 2012, and that won't happen again. However, another stellar campaign is all but assured.