By Kris Voakes
Lionel Messi has been announced as the winner of the Goal 50 for 2012-13, scooping the individual accolade for the third time since its inauguration in the summer of 2008.
Goal's global team of editors picked their best 50 footballers from around the world using a points-based voting system, and it was Messi who claimed the crown without being a European champion, following on from his 2009 and 2011 successes with Barcelona's Champions League winners. His remarkable feat of scoring in consecutive fixtures against every La Liga side added yet another record to his recent list of achievements, with his 91-goal calendar year of 2012 also helping to lift him ahead of the challengers.
But dig deeper and the Goal 50 revealed a great deal more about the best players in 2012-13 - here, we pick through the fascinating trends.
The Goal 50, like any other major individual award in football, generally finds its list dominated by attacking players. However, there was something of a sea change in 2012-13, with midfielders outnumbering forwards in the final list.
This season's half-century counts eight more midfielders among its number than this time last year, overhauling strikers, of whom there are four less than in 2011-12. The most notable drop comes in defence though, with only eight per cent of the 50 making their names in the back line compared to 18% last term.
The vastly differing numbers to previous years could be at least partly explained by the change in approach of some of the world's most effective outfits. With an increased emphasis on a high pressing line has come a greater need to be ever-involved as a midfield player, while defenders have largely been left with more comfortable lives than has previously been the case when teams have been allowed longer on the ball in other areas of the field.
|GERMANS AND BRAZILIANS DO IT BEST
The rise of Germany's top two clubs in the Champions League and the success of Brazil at the Confederations Cup has seen a heavy swing towards players of those two nations in the Goal 50 standings.
Bayern Munich's victory over Borussia Dortmund in the European final at Wembley helped to showcase the Bundesliga's finest talents, while the Selecao's triumph at the World Cup curtain-raiser ensured that their players' abilities stayed in the memory when our panel came together. As ever, there is a fair smattering of Spanish players, while Colombia's footballers continue their rise by coming in fourth.
|BAYERN BOSS THE RANKINGS
Bayern's phenomenal treble triumph is reflected by the inclusion of no fewer than nine Roten players in the Goal 50. Dortmund's Mario Gotze has since joined Bayern this summer also, sending the European champions into double figures as they head for 2013-14.
In fact, Franck Ribery's achievement of becoming the first Bundesliga player ever to make it to the podium is backed up by the placings of Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben in fourth and fifth respectively, with skipper Philipp Lahm coming seventh and Bastian Schweinsteiger rounding out five FCB team-mates in the top 11. Not since Barcelona in 2009 has one club dominated so heavily in the upper echelons of the award.
With Bayern having overcome Barca with such ease in the Champions League semi-final, becoming the first German side to win the treble and clinching the Bundesliga by a massive margin, they have clearly won over the Goal panel both individually and collectively.
|BUNDESLIGA BOUNCING BACK
After five years of trailing other major European leagues in their representation in the Goal 50, the Bundesliga struck back with a bang in 2012-13.
With 26 per cent of the entrants coming from the German championship, they account for more than La Liga and the Premier League combined despite the Spanish and English leagues coming in second and third in the rankings. The presence of both Bayern and Dortmund in the Champions League final clearly helped to build such a statistic, but the Roten's league and cup form throughout the year made the German dominance all the more emphatic.
Brazil's fourth-placed finish owed much to the success of the Selecao at the Confederations Cup with the gathering momentum which resulted in a 3-0 final victory over Spain helping to showcase the very best of the samba stars before the Goal 50 cut-off date.
|SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO NOW?
Modern football's rapid shift away from the days of one-club men continues apace despite our winner Lionel Messi typifying the former way of things.
A sensational 20 of the 50 players were transferred during the course of the 2012-13 campaign, meaning 40 per cent of those listed have at some point dealt with the upheaval involved with a switch in clubs. However, no such player made the top seven, with only Thiago Silva and Robin van Persie reaching the top 10 after transferring.
The stats suggest that while some of the world's best players have benefitted from the breath of fresh air that a new club has provided, to be at the very top of the pile takes consistency as well as considerable ability. In total the players on the list have commanded €827 million in transfer fees.
|ABOUTRIKA'S WINNING KNACK
In a list boasting over 400 senior honours it may come as a surprise to many that the most decorated player among the Goal 50 is Egyptian Mohamed Aboutrika.
The Al Ahly star, who was on loan to Baniyas during 2012-13, has racked up a fantastic 24 medals during his playing career. That tally includes the Gulf Champions League, which he won with his temporary club in May, scoring a vital goal in the second leg of the final. More predictable names sit just behind Aboutrika in the honours list, with Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi having racked up countless awards with Barcelona.
This tally of medals shows that to be considered as one of the best in the world by the Goal 50 panel, players must be winners at the very highest level, but at the same time thought is clearly given to individual additions too when it comes to separating one champion from another.
|NEW FACES GALORE
While Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta remain permanent fixtures in the history of the Goal 50, there was a massive influx of new players in the list in 2012-13.
The award's reputation for recognising achievements from all over the world over the course of a season has been bolstered by the inclusion of 28 names who have never previously made the top 50. Of those, three of the highest-placed players were winners at the Confederations Cup with Brazil - Fred, Dante and Paulinho, who is the leading newcomer at 12th in the ranking.
So the Goal 50 again proves to take all factors into account. Messi, Ronaldo et al continue to rule the roost on the whole, but there is also great reward for players who have not had the consistency over a period of years. There is no discrimination against new names here!
|SILVER LEADS TO GOLD
While the Goal 50 is an individual award, there is obviously a huge pull towards players who have been part of a successful team during the season, and only 18 per cent of those in our half-century ended 2012-13 potless.
Dante led the way with a total of five trophies last season, adding a Confederations Cup triumph with Brazil to his four titles with Bayern Munich (including the DFL Supercup). His Bayern team-mates flood the Goal 50 having all been part of the quadruple-winning squad, while Paulinho - now of Tottenham - lifted the Paulista championship and the Club World Cup prior to his success with the Selecao in the summer.
|GOAL 50 GAME
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