WINNER – Lionel Messi – 29%
Don’t let the statistics fool you. Lionel Messi may have featured in 10 fewer matches, and scored 13 fewer goals in 2012-2013 compared to his record-breaking 2011-2012 campaign, but over the course of the season, Messi still managed to find a way to improve. With a staggering 30 goals scored in 19 consecutive La Liga appearances, La Pulga set yet another world record en route to his third (and first consecutive) Pichichi trophy triumph, not to mention helped Barcelona secure their fourth La Liga title in five seasons.
Certainly we’ve established that his efforts against AC Milan were crucial to our progression past the Round of 16 in this season’s UEFA Champions League, and while this means that some continue to portray his influence negatively – as Barcelona supposedly suffer from messidependencia – it’s also a reminder of his immense talent. After all, how often do we truly see a player that (almost) single-handedly drags his side to multiple titles?
Perhaps Messi’s success in this award is a little unexpected, and arguably "against the spirit of the award" itself, but look at it this way. Unlike the 2011-2012 campaign – where Messi’s super-human efforts were rewarded with a "mere" Copa del Rey trophy – Messi’s performances were this time the catalyst for a successful season and for that alone, Messi is deserving of recognition.
RUNNER-UP – Cristian Tello – 21%
However, there will be some who would have preferred to see Cristian Tello win this award, and it’s easy to see why. In contrast to Lionel Messi, Cristian Tello improved in the four major statistical categories (appearances, minutes played, goals and assists) and thanks to a string of impressive performances over the course of the season, Tello also moved himself into contention for a starting role in Tito Vilanova’s side.
Unfortunately, Barcelona’s signing of Neymar looks to have "blocked" Tello’s route to a place in the starting XI, but the young winger will surely be confident of his chances off the bench, especially now that veteran striker David Villa has departed the Camp Nou for Atletico Madrid. Offering pace, and an eye for goal, Tello adds yet another dimension to the free-scoring Barcelona attack and in years to come, those skills may well become invaluable.
BEST OF THE REST – Martin Montoya – 15%
Montoya rounded off an excellent season with a deserved third-place in this Most Improved Player award, scooping 15% of the vote to finish ahead of the likes of Adriano Correia and Jordi Alba – each of whom were positioned ahead of the Catalan in Tito Vilanova’s pecking order. In his relatively few appearances with the first team, Montoya excelled, displaying superb composure and an abundance of talent to leave Culés drooling over his future.