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SL Ballon D’Or Top 10 – Nr 2: Lionel Messi

Argentine and FC Barcelona forward, Lionel Messi, was voted world’s number 2 by the Soccer-Laduma journalists.

The 26-year-old is arguably recognised as the best player in the world and rated by some coaches and players as the greatest footballer of all time.

Messi is known for his balance, his speed off the ground and the art of dribbling at its highest level. Due to their similar playing style and stature, he is often compared to compatriot Diego Maradona. He has also been described as a versatile team player, with good vision, known for his passing and his creative combinations.

He started his career as a left-winger and forward, but was later moved onto the right wing by former manager Frank Rijkaard, who noticed that from this position, Messi could cut through the defence into the middle of the pitch more easily, allowing him to curl shots on goal with his left foot.

He started playing football at the age of five for a local club in Argentina. At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. Local giants, River Plate, showed interest in Messi’s progress, but were not willing to pay for treatment of his condition, which cost $900 a month.

Through relatives in Catalonia, Messi’s father arranged a trial with FC Barcelona and Carles Rexach, Barcelona’s sporting director at the time, offered him a contract written on a paper napkin. The Catalan giants offered to pay Messi’s medical bills and together with his father he moved to Barcelona to join their prestigious youth academy, La Masia.

He made his official debut for the Blaugrana aged 16 years and 145 days, in a friendly match against Porto and less than a year later Rijkaard gave him his league debut in October 2004.

He was part of the Barcelona team that won the 2004-05 and 2005-06 La Liga titles as well as the Supercopa de Espana in both years. He made his Champions League debut in September 2007 and even though his personal season ended with an injury in March, Messi won the Champions League as an 18-year-old in 2006.

In the next season, Messi established himself as a regular first team player and became the youngest player to score in the El Classico in March 2007, a game where he scored a hat-trick. His brilliance and Diego Maradona style-of-play earned him his first FIFA World Player of the Year (since 2010 FIFA Ballon d’Or) nomination and he finished second behind Kaka.

From then on, Messi’s career and stats are almost impossible to summarize. Between 2008 and today, he scored 192 La Liga goals in 180 games. In 2009 he won his first Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year and followed it up by winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010, and then again in 2011 and 2012.

In the age of 24, Messi became Barca’s all-time top scorer in all official club competitions and also won the 2010-11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.

He has won six La Liga titles, two Copa de Rey, five Supercopas de Espana, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

During the 2011-12 season he set a new European record for most goals scored in a single season, with 73 goals. In the same season, he also set the current goal scoring record in a single La Liga season, scoring 50 goals.

In February 2013, Messi scored his 300th Barcelona goal and in March 2013, he scored in his 19th consecutive La Liga game, becoming the first footballer in history to net in consecutive matches against every team in professional football league. He extended that record to 21 consecutive league games, but his run ended when he sustained a hamstring injury.

On international level, Messi helped Argentina win the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup, finishing as both the best player and the top scorer. In 2006, he became the youngest Argentine to play in the World Cup. He won the Copa America one year later, and was elected young player of the tournament.

In 2008, he won the Olympic Gold Medal with the Argentina Olympic football team, but failed to have success with the senior national team since. In August 2011 he was named as the new permanent captain of Argentina and with 37 goals in 83 caps he sits currently second on Argentina’s all-time top scorer’s list.

Despite his La Liga goal-scoring record in consecutive matches, 2013 has been a difficult year for the Argentine superstar. He was stopped by two injuries in the second half of the 2012-13 season and could not prevent Barcelona from losing 7-0 on aggregate to later Champions League winners, Bayern Munich, in the semi-final.

He started the new season with 16 goals in 18 games in all competitions, but was sidelined due to injury since the end of November. He only returned last week on the pitch, but immediately scored a brace when he came on as a substitute in the Copa del Rey.

His FIFA Ballon d’Or contender, Franck Ribery, stated early in 2013: “Messi is class. There is him, and then there is the rest. What he does is extraordinary — he demands admiration.”

There is nothing more to say, besides that Lionel Messi surely had a great season, but his injury problems stopped from being the best player in Soccer-Laduma’s world’stop 10.

By David Kappel

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