Ranking Each of Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or Seasons

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2014

Ranking Each of Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or Seasons

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    The debate over the greatest player in football history will continue for eternity. For some, Pele and Diego Maradona remain untouchable, but for many others, it is Lionel Messi who reigns supreme.

    No matter who gets your vote as the greatest of all time, no one can deny that Messi is one of the best to have ever kicked a football.

    From his humble beginnings in Rosario to winning countless trophies under Pep Guardiola, Messi’s career has been something straight out of a storybook. Those who have been lucky enough to watch his career unfold thus far are blessed, but at 27, the Argentine has a lot of football left to play.

    Messi isn’t the same player he was a few years ago. Like other greats of the game, he has altered his style and evolved as a player. Whether it is scoring goals or creating chances, Messi has proved that he can do it all, while the same passion he had as a kid has never wavered.

    Breaking Telmo Zarra’s all-time La Liga scoring record was a major feat for the 27 year old, but it was just another milestone in Messi’s career. There are plenty of records left for the Argentine to surpass.

    In many ways, Messi stands alone in regard to other players. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment thus far are his four Ballon d’Or trophies—won consecutively and more than any player in the history of the game.

    Each of those four titles was won on the back of a truly stellar year of records and silverware, but is there a way to rank them individually? That is what this article will set out to do, so continue reading to see which Ballon d’Or title year was Messi’s best.

Number 4: Messi's 2010 Ballon d'Or Title

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    When Lionel Messi lifted the 2010 Ballon d’Or trophy it was his second consecutive time winning the coveted award. He beat out Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta to do so, but he was clearly the only choice for the award.

    At 23, Messi had not even entered the prime of his career. The Argentine scored 60 goals for both club and country, a mark that previously seemed unimaginable to the footballing world.

    The Argentine may have done well to help Argentina qualify and reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup that year, but it was his performances at club level that shined the brightest.

    Messi managed to score 34 goals in league play, while also adding eight in the Champions League during the 2009-10 season, via ESPN.com. He was unstoppable in attack and defenders had little to no answer.

    On top of personal achievements, Messi was also able to lead Barcelona to glory in La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup. Barcelona was not able to retain their Champions League or Copa del Rey crowns, though they certainly boasted the squad to be able to do so.

    Messi’s second Ballon d’Or title was thoroughly deserved based on his performances at club level, but it was far from the best of his four glorious years.

Number 3: Messi's 2012 Ballon d'Or Title

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    Coming it at number three in our list is Messi’s fourth Ballon d’Or trophy, which he won back in 2012. Based on stats alone, it seemed inconceivable that this was not his best year, but there are other factors at play.

    Messi’s 2012 year was unfathomably successful on a personal level. Not only did the Argentine surpass Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year by scoring 91, but he also made a huge fashion statement at the gala when he walked up on stage to accept his award in a polka-dot suit.

    The year of 2012 saw Messi shatter several other records as well, and it was becoming even more evident that no one knew how to stop the Barcelona forward. He was scoring at will and opponents could not handle the then 25-year-old.

    However, Messi’s personal form in 2012 was the silver lining on a dark cloud of disappointment for FC Barcelona.

    Barcelona were able to win four trophies during the 2011-12 season, but the league title and Champions League were not among them. It was also Pep Guardiola’s last season at Camp Nou, and the next season only saw the Catalans claim the La Liga title.

    With so much personal success in 2012, Barcelona should have been able to accomplish much more in those 365 days. Still, Messi fully deserved his fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or trophy, with his 91 goals during the calendar year ensuring his victory.

Number 2: Messi's 2009 Ballon d'Or Title

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    FRANCOIS MORI/Associated Press

    Lionel Messi won his very first Ballon d’Or trophy in 2009, which comes in second place on our list. Though his later years would carry bigger and better statistics, it was what the Argentine was able to accomplish that made 2009 a year that will never be forgotten.

    Still only 22 years old, Messi dazzled in all competitions, helping Barcelona pull off a fantastic treble season in 2008-09 and win the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup before the year was out. He led all La Liga scorers with 23 goals and also topped the Champions League with nine strikes, via The Guardian.

    When Messi helped Barcelona beat Manchester United, 2-0, in the Champions League final with a stunning header, the entire world was made aware of his spectacular talent. He was no longer a kid developing into a star; he was the new face of world football.

    Messi’s individual performances in 2009 were nothing short of spectacular. He would later go on to make his 2009 statistics look like child’s play, but for that day and age, he was revitalizing FC Barcelona and the idea of happy endings in football.

    According to The Guardian, Messi received 473 out of a possible 480 points in the award voting, making his first Ballon d’Or trophy a nearly unanimous decision.

    The 2009 Ballon d’Or is what started it all. The rest, as they say, is history.

Number 1: Messi's 2011 Ballon d'Or Title

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Topping our rankings is none other than Messi’s third Ballon d’Or title, which he won back in 2011 following a truly awe-inspiring year with FC Barcelona and Argentina.

    Messi once again led Barcelona in scoring and was the standout player in the Champions League, but he was also able to bring home major titles in the process.

    In 2011 alone, Barcelona won La Liga, the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup and the Club World Cup. The only title missing in 2011 was the Copa del Rey, which Messi helped the Catalans recapture in 2012.

    Having already won the prestigious award twice before, Messi was unrivaled in the 2011 voting. The world seemed to already know the verdict long before it was officially announced, and it was hard to argue with the result.

    After Messi was handed the award, his teammate Xavi told the BBC, “I think [Messi] is going to break every record that exists.”

    Xavi, who was already one of the most successful footballers of all time, was giving Messi the praise that only one of the very best deserves. Messi had accomplished almost everything he possibly could at only 24 years of age.

    Messi’s streak ended last year when Cristiano Ronaldo won the award for a second time. The next Ballon d’Or gala is not too far away, but you have to believe that Messi will be in the running for years to come, given he has just entered what many consider to be the peak years of a footballer's career.

    Which Ballon d'Or year was Messi's very best? Will the Argentine win the coveted trophy again? Leave your thoughts and comments below.


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