"It's beginning to look a lot like"...that time of year when every website, newspaper, magazine, radio station, and television channel begins to compile lists of the best and/or worst fill-in-the-blank of the year, and Sports Illustrated is no exception. The magazine, an authority in the sporting world - something we tend to forget when their yearly swimsuit issue is released - has honored an athlete or team that embodies the "spirit of sportsmanship and achievement" during a calendar year.
The twelve candidates for 2015, which include names such as Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, Carli Lloyd, and horse racing's first "grand slam" winner American Pharoah are all incredible in their own right. However, it's Lionel Messi who, for football fans, stands out above all others.
The little Argentine has been showered with praise for his achievements with FC Barcelona. Messi's goal-scoring prowess helped raise the Catalan club out of their crisis during the first half of the 2014/15 season, and lead Barça to win the coveted treble for a second time, thus becoming the first European side to accomplish the feat.
On an individual level, not only did Leo's breathtaking, goosebumps raising goal against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final, where he somehow squeezed his way through three defenders before bamboozling two more Basque players inside the penalty box to then beat the keeper and net the opening goal, place the Rosario native on the shortlist for this year's Puskás Award, he is also the number one contender for the Ballon d'Or.
It would be easy to assume that Messi would be a front runner for the award with such record-breaking accomplishments. Unfortunately, the Barcelona forward only holds about 10 percent of the votes at this time, which should be of little surprise since Messi, though a household name in most countries around the world, is only of interest to a specific group of fans in the United States.
Nevertheless, Messi continues to do the impossible with his divinely created left foot, and is undoubtedly the world's greatest player.