Why Barcelona's Lionel Messi Will Reclaim the Ballon D'Or in 2014

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Barcelona's  Lionel Messi from Argentina claps his hands  during their la Copa del Rey soccer match against Levante at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday Jan. 22, 2014. The Argentinean plays his 400th game in an Barcelona shirt in the Copa del Rey against Levante.(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

"I want to congratulate Cristiano because he was the winner and deserved it," said Messi, via ESPN. It was just another bit of class that we have come to expect from the little Argentinean.

Despite his disappointment, he acknowledged the fantastic performances of his foe. He was right, after the achievements of Ronaldo in the last year and the time he has spent away from the pitch. If Ronaldo didn't win it now, when would he?

The two players have been above the rest for at least four or five years. There have been other high performers, but none that were ever seriously considered for this singular title.

When a team delivers exceptionally, it clouds the judgement a little, with some thinking that it should be a member of the Bayern Munich winning side this time around or from the Spanish national team in 2010.

But as individuals, the two that currently operate on a different level are the Barcelona and Real Madrid attackers.

There are a number that could make the step up in the next 12 months, but in order to do that it's fair to say they will need to average around a goal a game in a major European league.

Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa are both displaying the type of scoring ability and creative traits that would propel them into this category over the course of a calendar year.

Though their on-pitch personas and attributes mean they may lose votes, even if they display the necessary level.

The increase in competition would likely see Messi produce his very best, as the presence of Ronaldo has spurred him on in years gone by.

Hopefully he can avoid the ailments that have plagued him in the last year—under Pep Guardiola he rarely missed a match.

This season, he has started only half the league games, and then there were the issues surrounding the Champions League matches with Bayern Munich in April.

Messi spent a large amount of 2013 struggling with thigh muscle afflictions. "I do not know if it would have been different without the injuries," admitted Messi. He went on to say:

It was a long time out, that is true. I did not arrive in good condition for the semifinals of the Champions League, and this season I was injured as soon as the season began, but that has nothing to do with it. Cristiano deserved to win.

The two-month break at the end of 2013 should revitalise the little maestro; it was a chance for his body and mind to recuperate.

As we head into the crunch matches of the season, Messi will be hitting top form and will be able to make a difference in the latter stages of Europe's best tournament.

The games with Manchester City could be potential classics, whilst the return with Real Madrid will happen in March.

Should the title go right to the wire, Barcelona host Atletico on the final day of La Liga. It's these kinds of encounters that stand out for those that have to make the decisions on voting.

What could make the real difference, and potentially settle the debate on Messi's standing in history, is Brazil.

Out of the likely main candidates for the Ballon d'Or, Messi plays for a nation with the biggest chance of success, as they are arguably third favourites.

For a Messi-inspired Argentina to win the World Cup in their archenemy's own backyard, it would be difficult for anyone to begrudge him of regaining his crown.