Barcelona: 5 Reasons Leo Messi Has Not Yet Hit His Peak
Like a fine wine, Lionel Messi just keeps getting better.
Each week, the diminutive forward continues to serve up performances that defy expectation, breaking records like they are par for the course.
One may suspect that the Barcelona player peaked with a season in which he broke La Liga scoring records and a calendar year in which he smashed Gerd Mueller's all-time scoring record, but that is not the case.
Here's why the best is yet to come from the peerless Argentinean.
He Can Score More Than 50 League Goals This Season
Last season, Leo Messi set the La Liga goalscoring record with a stupendous 50 goals in 36 games.
After scoring four in a rout of Osasuna over the weekend—outshining his rival Cristiano Ronaldo's hat trick—his 2012/13 tally is now 33 goals in 20 games. Continuing at that scoring rate, he will have achieved 59.4 goals by the end of the season.
This time last season, Messi had scored just 22 league goals; so he is already 11 ahead of his target and could quite conceivably smash the 60 barrier!
Maradona Was Older Than Messi When He Peaked
It's probably fair to say that Diego Maradona's career undulated toward its peak at the 1986 World Cup, where he scored "The Goal of the Century" against England and almost single-handedly guided Argentina to their second World Cup in three attempts.
Maradona won myriad awards in 1986 and guided Napoli to their first scudetto in 1986/87. The Neapolitans finished second the following two seasons and won it again with Maradona's help in 1989/90.
Maradona turned 26 in 1986, making him slightly older than the 25-year-old Messi before he reached his creative peak.
The Argentinean legend only started to lose his powers when he became entangled in the rock 'n' roll excesses of superstardom. Messi shows absolutely no signs of taking this path, and therefore could continue to improve for many years after his idol started to falter.
He Is a Father
Fernando Signorini, the physiotherapist who helped Maradona reach his physiological peak at Mexico '86, believes Messi will get better now that his son Thiago is part of his life. Futoboliota quotes:
Among other things, he will also become a father and this will motivate him to excel and be the best dad in the world. Leo is going to want to give his child the best [gift]: a ball and a lot of goals."
Messi wouldn't be the first footballer to get better after becoming a daddy. Wayne Rooney's son Kai, for example, was born in November 2009, at the beginning of a season in which the Manchester United striker scored 26 goals and won PFA Players' Player of the Year, PFA Fans' Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and various other awards.
Rooney won the league with United the following season, and in the last campaign finished with 27 goals—his highest league tally to date.
He Is Continually Improving
Messi's stats are fearsome, and show absolutely no sign of slowing down.
Every single season since he started playing professionally, The Atomic Flea has scored an increasing number of goals in all competitions (seven in 2005/06; 19 in 2006/07; 20 in 2007/08; 42 in 2008/09; 49 in 2009/10; 51 in 2010/11; 77 in 2011/12).
He has also had a continually increasing amount of shots, shots on target and games played.
Messi is also becoming a better leader on the field, he provides more assists for teammates (he has eight so far in the league this season and only managed 10 all season in 2009/10) and has become one of the best free-kick specialists in the world.
He Has an Important World Cup Ahead of Him
Few would argue against the idea that Leo Messi is one of the greatest players of all time, but many believe the legendary status of Pele or Maradona will elude him until he wins a World Cup.
Next summer in Brazil, Messi will captain an Argentina side that the bookmakers are tipping to do extremely well. European teams traditionally struggle at tournaments in the Americas, where the Albicelestes won both their World Cup honors.
If his Argentina side can see off hosts and fierce rivals Brazil, the stage is set for Leo to have his "Maradona at Mexico '86" moment.