Some say the ball is glued to his foot, others say it's simply a part of him, either way the things Lionel Messi is capable of with the ball at his feet will always remain impossible for us mere mortals to comprehend. Onlookers expect to witness a piece of magic everytime he graces a football pitch with his presence and astoundingly, he rarely fails to deliver.No other player on the planet can boast the talents of the phenomenal Argentine and so his three consecutive Ballon d'Or awards are hardly surprising. He now faces off against his Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta and a familiar foe in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo in a bid to retain his title for an unprecedented fourth year in a row. Goal.com lists three reasons why Messi deserves to win the award yet again and looks back at some of his best performances in 2012…
Year after year, the critics have always been able to flee to the arguement that Messi hasn't replicated his sensational club form for the national team in an effort to dismiss his claim to be the best player in the world. This year, Messi has been nothing short of phenomenal for Argentina and has finally checked that box as well.
The diminutive forward has bagged 12 goals for his country this season from just 11 appearances, scoring two hat-tricks along the way. Crucially, Messi is finally starting to relish his role as captain of the national side which went unbeaten in 2012 with 9 wins and 2 draws. Messi matched Gabriel Batistuta's record of 12 goals in a calendar year for Argentina although the latter achieved the feat in a World Cup year.
Although Argentina weren't involved in a major competition this year, Messi's performances on the international stage cannot be overlooked. His efforts with the South American giants will definitely carry weight when the votes are being cast.
Goals and records
At this stage of his career, you get the feeling that Messi has probably broken more records than the number of ones still standing. The most impressive of them all and most relevant for his claim to the 2012 Ballon d'Or award is perhaps his tally of 92 goals in a calendar year.
The Argentine smashed Gerd Muller's longstanding record of 85 goals, bettering it with 7 more strikes. A feat of that magnitude deserves recognition and the voters may be inclined to reward Messi with another Ballon d'Or award for that reason despite the fact that he has only managed to win the Copa del Rey in 2012.
|"My record stood for 40 years - 85 goals in a year - and now the best player in the world has broken it and I'm delighted for him. He is an incredible player, gigantic."
- Gerd Muller
He also broke several other records along the way. He became the first player to score 5 goals in a Champions League game when Barcelona thumped Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 at the Camp Nou. The 1st, 2nd, 10th, 14th, 15th and 69th minutes are the only ones in which Messi failed to score in 2012, a remarkable fact. He got on the score sheet in ten consecutive La Liga matches in which he scored 23 goals.
For these and several other records the little Argentine has smashed along the way, it could almost be deemed criminal if he fails to win the prestigious award for 2012. Apart from the sheer number of goals he scored in the year, the quality and variety of them is exceedingly impressive. Simply put, he has been the outstanding goal scorer in 2012.
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Simply the best
The Ballon d'Or is awarded to the best player in a calendar year. The players' individual achievements and those of their teams play a massive role in the final decision but if you eradicate all those factors and base it purely on ability, you could argue that Messi would win by a landslide.
The Barcelona star never ceases to amaze audiences and consistently leaves the most out-spoken critics speechless. At times there is an air of predictability in what he is about to do but it doesn't make it any easier to stop him. Time and again he has delivered the goods on the big occasion and seems to thrive in the spotlight.
|"Once he's on the run, Messi is unstoppable. He's the only player who can change direction at such pace. He is the best player in the world by some distance."
- Arsene Wenger
He is incomparable to any other player on the planet and given his unending list of accolades already, it's hard to believe that he's only 25 years old and probably just entering the best years of his career. At this moment in time, he is indisputably the best player in the world.
Top 5 performances in 2012
1. Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen - 2nd leg Champions League round of 16, March 7th 2012:
If there ever was a five-star performance from the little magician, this was it. The genius of Lionel Messi was evident in all its glory against the previous season's Bundesliga runners-up in the Champions League as he became the first player to score five goals in a single game in the history of the competition.
The quality of every goal only made the feat all the more impressive. He clipped the ball into the far corner for his first, cut inside to slot in the second, lobbed the keeper with his right foot for his hat-trick, drilled in the fourth from a tight angle and and then curled in a long range screamer for his fifth. Simply unstoppable.
2. Argentina 4-3 Brazil - International friendly, June 9th 2012:
The fierce rivalry between the two South American giants produced another incredible spectacle and Messi was well and truly the star of the show. He tormented Brazil's defense and bagged a vital hat-trick that proved to be the difference between the two sides.
He beat the back-line for his first two goals, slotting the ball past the keeper for the first before rounding him and tucking the ball into the empty net for the second. His third however was a thing of beauty. With the scores level at 3-3, he received the ball on the right flank and darted towards goal, swaying his way infield before unleashing an unstoppable curling effort from range to secure the victory.
His sensational performance had followed the hat-trick he scored against Switzerland earlier in the year and it began to dismiss suggestions from the critics that he never turns up for the national side in the same way he does for Barcelona.
3. Barcelona 5-1 Valencia - La Liga, February 20th 2012:
This was another trademark Messi performance. He ran at the Valencia defense incessantly and they just couldn't resist him. He scored the first four goals and signed off with an assist as Barcelona ran out 5-1 winners.
His lob over Diego Alves was the pick of the goals and it truly captured his genius. It was an all round stunning performance and one that further established him as the best player in the world.
4. Barcelona 5-3 Granada - La Liga, March 20th 2012:
When you have Lionel Messi in your side, leaking goals at the back is rarely an issue. Despite conceding three goals against an inferior side in Granada, Barcelona managed to score five goals in reply and wouldn't you just know it, Messi was involved in every one of them.
Apart from his three sublime finishes that earned him yet another hat-trick for the Blaugrana, he also put on his playmaking cap to assist the other two goals to see his side over the finish line in a game that could have resulted in an upset had it not been for the Argentine's intervention.
His goals were all the more significant that night as it saw him become Barcelona's all-time leading scorer and kept their title hopes alive.
5. Deportivo La Coruna 4-5 Barcelona - La Liga, October 20th 2012:
This particular game proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Barcelona would slip up far more often if they didn't have Messi to turn to when they are in need of something extraordinary. Fortunately for them, they do have Messi and 'extraordinary' is his speciality.
After a driving run, Messi picked out Cristian Tello with a crisp pass to put the visitors 2-0 up. He then scored a brace before half time at which point the score line read 4-2 in favour of the Catalans. He went on to add his thrid in the 77th minute with a brilliant solo run and finish which proved to be the decisive goal as the game ended 5-4 to Barcelona.
|"It has been an honour to be the coach of the best player I have ever seen and probably the best I will see."
- Pep Guardiola
Lionel Messi is a footballing prodigy. He is by far the most gifted player around but he also has a good head on his shoulders and manages to keep his feet on the ground. He will go down as the best player of his generation and at only 25, he's already challenging the likes of Diego Maradona and Pele to be regarded as the best player of all time even though the World Cup continues to elude him. Based purely on ability and effectiveness, Messi should stroll away with award.
|Does Messi deserve to win the Ballon d'Or? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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