It is yet again that time of the year when the football community is merely counting the hours to when the prize for the best footballer in the world will be given. The long list of nominees has been chopped down to three: two men have Blaugrana blood running in their veins while the other leads the line for arguably the most successful European club. Obviously different people might have different views all over the world about who they view as the best footballer and the criteria they use but nobody will deny that Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi deserve to be the in the final shortlist for their performance over the previous season and it is hereby argued that only the latter deserves to walk away with the accolade.
After losing to the Portuguese superstar in 2008 Messi's retaliation was not to be the eye-for-an-eye kind of a thing; he's already taken three eyes if we continue with the metaphor, and he does not seem to be slowing down. Being a holder of the joint record of three awards, Messi could even go on to double that number, his current run of form and consistence strengthens his case and at 25, age is definitely on his side.
Individually, La Pulga had an enormous season. His stats in the previous campaign compete with those of some European teams in the big 5 leagues. With his goal scoring ability, one might easily mistake his ruthlesness in front of goal for selfishness but that is not the case at all; Messi creates a lot of goals for teammates too, in fact most teams would gobble at the opportunity to sign a playmaker of his calibre in their ranks.
- He surpassed Cesar Rodriguez's 232 goals to become Barcelona's all time goal scorer in official games. He is currently on 288 official goals.
- He became only the first player to score five goals in a Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen, a game FC Barcelona won 7-1.
- He scored a record 14 goals in the Champions League and has finished as top scorer for the last four seasons in a row - another record
- With 73 goals, he became best scorer in the history of any single European season.
- In the league, he became the all-time best scorer in a single season with 50 goals, breaking Ronaldo's 40 from the season before.
- His 16 assists in La Liga meant he came second to Mesut Ozil's 17 (A Playmaker by profession).
- His 5 assists in the Champions League meant he ended the season with a massive total of 29 in all competitions.
- He currently shares the record for the most international goals (25) in a calender year with Vivian Woodward.
- His 79 goals for Barcelona in 2012 are the most ever by any European-based footballer in a calendar year.
Further Records (2012)
- He beat Cesar Rodriguez's 190 goals to become Barcelona's all time leading goalscorer in La Liga, currently on 195 goals.
- With 12 international goals, he became Argentina's joint record holder for most goals in a calendar year.
- He finished the year 2012 with a record total of 91 goals for both club and country.
- He's currently the tied with Platini as the one to have won the Ballon d'Or award for three concecutive years. Only four footballers have collected the award three times.
2011/2012 Team Accolades
Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona missed out on the two biggest trophies in the previous campaign, bowing out in the semi finals of the Champions League to eventual winners Chelsea as well as finishing second in La Liga behind Cristiano's Real Madrid. Nonetheless the team did pile-up the rest of the trophies on offer; winning the Spanish Supercopa, the European Supercup, the Club World Cup as well as the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona's poor consistency in away league matches cost them the League as their season's success boiled down to two crucial games against Chelsea and Madrid, games they lost, so with that in mind; Why exactly does Leo deserve it more than the other two you might ask. Well I will tell you why:
1. For starters, the accolades some of us are counting against Messi are purely "Team" awards. If we are comparing Barcelona to Madrid or to Chelsea it's fine because that's what team awards are good for. Nobody "single-handedly" wins trophies, at least not in football. A minimum of ten other men (plus substitutes) run their socks off to help get their team the result; it's not a one man kind of a thing. Managers, directors, team doctors and even club presidents occationally take some of the credit when the team wins and deservedly so. It is a team because the many individuals in it work together for a common goal; the defence trying to keep out goals, the offence trying to get them, subs coming in to relieve tired teammates and bring fresh blood just to make sure their team maintains a lead or fight for a comeback. Even Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes won Euro and World Cup medals for being part of a "team" that performed well even though their contributions might have been minimum at best, and there are a lot more footballers who won even more trophies across Europe and the World, they don't go around taking all their teammates' credit for a team performance.
2. Messi had an incredible "individual" season in all competitions. He boasts numbers most winners of the award have never thought possible. He's broken records after records and some were his own. Scoring 73 goals is no child's play, it takes serious determination. Top scorer in the Champions League as well as in La Liga, I'm sure if it was that simple to score we would have at least 5 players walking around boasting their 50 goals in a season, but it's not.
Messi had no consistant teammate to score goals when he couldn't, unlike his rival from the capital club who did. David Villa, who was already showing a major dip in form, got injured last season. Alexis Sanchez was visiting the treatment table almost every month and even then, Alexis and Pedro Rodriguez were so bad (in front of goal) last season that you'd be sure they'd still hit a stationary goalkeeper with the ball, or miss him in preference for the frame of the goal. This meant that almost all of Barca's attacks relied solely on Messi's boots for the finish and the numbers speak for themselves, but at the end of the day it's a team sport and even HE can't score for 100 percent of the games. Once in a while a team will come with a plan to keep him at bay and it is at that time when offensive teammates need to come to his (and the team's) aid. Just for the sake of comparison; Ronaldo had both his striker friends racking over 20 goals. In fact if Gonzalo Higuain was the penalty taker at Madrid, he could easily have finished the season with numbers similar to those of Cristiano's. Madrid was more consistent than Barcelona because when their superstar couldn't get the goal, someone else did. This is of course admittedly this author's opinion and other reasons might have accounted for Messi's Barcelona losing the league.
The game against Chelsea is a practical example of what's already been said about having teammates who occasionally leave their scoring boots at home. The English club had ten men congested in the middle who effectively marked Messi out of the game, or at least where he likes to play; that and the fact that Cech was in scintillating form. His winger teammates couldn't help break the deadlock either and when he missed that penalty, the big trophy with the ears was not to be. That's exactly what happened, an excellent run of form by Messi and Barcelona that had Bookmakers sure they would retain the trophy all came crumbling down because he could not get the goal and nobody else could.
All teams lose at some point and players know that better that anyone, which is why when the season starts players just want to do really well, taking it game by game and winning as much as possible and also hoping (for the team) that the day they lose, it will not be a season destroying loss. Messi did the same for the team as an individual in 2011-2012, he started the season scoring as much goals as he possibly could to help the team and help the team he did.
One should not mistaken his incredible scoring records for selfishness either, because you need not go far but look at his assists statistics to be convinced that he does indeed lookout for his teammates.
With his incredible scoring stats from the previous campaign as a striker/playmaker dwarfing those of rivals Iniesta and Ronaldo, Messi will and should win the upcoming Ballon d'Or award for the record 4th time. With his goals so far this season, make no mistake because he'll still be part of the final shortlist next year.