[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here almost no shocked faces when Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi was announced as the 2015 Ballon d’Or winner at last night’s over-hyped ceremony in Zurich.
The 28-year-old became the first player in the history of the sport to win the individual award five times; in itself another reason for the South American attacker to go down as one of football’s greatest ever – probably the greatest ever.
However, Messi’s performances from January to June, in which he played an integral role in his club winning a momentous treble, were the reason he was gifted another Ballon d’Or and deserves unadulterated praise.
After being dropped for the first game of 2015, a 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad at Anoeta, the La Masia graduate had a point to prove to coach Luis Enrique and the footballing world.
The fact that Messi has not won a major trophy with Argentina, unlike his iconic predecessor Diego Maradona, continues to be the only blight on an otherwise superlative career.
With the Albiceleste beaten in the final of the World Cup the summer prior, there were some hushed whispers that Messi’s greatness from his mid-20’s was no longer what it once was.
However, in scoring 34 goals in 34 games from the start of the year until ultimate glory in the Champions League final in May, Messi was unplayable.
The standout was almost certainly his breathtaking display in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich, where he reduced world-class opposition to putty in his hands.
A superb goal, where he embarrassed Jérôme Boateng and dinked the ball delectably over Manuel Neuer, was what most will remember.
In truth, the South American dictated the pace of the game throughout, with the German powerhouses and former boss Pep Guardiola helpless in preventing him from dominating affairs.
Other captivating goals and performances, like his individual strike against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final, will also stand out in the memory and be replayed over and over again.
However, the real standout of the six-month period was Messi’s consistency.
This consistency has heightened even further in the second half of last season and it was Messi leading the way that allowed fellow superstar attackers Luis Suárez and Neymar to fire also.
There is certainly signs that the Brazilian can well be the long-term successor to Messi once age plays its part in his demise, but for the time being the Argentine is the undoubted best player on the planet.
In two months of injury this season, Barcelona have learned to some degree to adapt their game to prosper without their superstar attacker.
But, that said, despite Neymar’s brilliance, Messi’s presence gives the entire side and boost and gives the team a certain fear factor and ability that beats most opposition before the game has even started.
Some of the records Messi holds, both from a Barcelona perspective and in Spanish and European football in general, may well never be broken.
This generation has been defined by the Argentine’s brilliance, which has transcended his perennial personal battle with Cristiano Ronaldo and allowed him to consistently be viewed as the best player on the planet.
Millions of fans across the world are surely dreading the day that Messi is no longer capable of performing the miraculous feats that have become commonplace.
However, for the time being, this unique and unbelievably gifted footballer should be heralded as a phenomenon of world sport and fully deserving of the success that has come his way.
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