Lionel Messi is widely considered to be the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or this year. It will be a record seventh Ballon d'Or win for the PSG forward. Unlike previous years, it has proved difficult to pick a winner in this year's race for the most prestigious individual prize in football.
However, the common narrative seems to be that Lionel Messi might have done just enough to pip his competition to the Ballon d'Or this term.
Lionel Messi is tipped to win the Ballon d'Or race
Lionel Messi is the odds-on favourite to win the Ballon d'Or this year. There are also players like Robert Lewandowski, Jorginho, Karim Benzema and N'Golo Kante who are all worthy contenders this time around.
But Messi has been extremely influential for both club and country in the 2020-21 season. Without further ado, let's take a look at five amazing achievements that make the PSG forward the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or this year.
#5 Top scorer and assist provider at Copa America 2021
Lionel Messi was a man on a mission at Copa America 2021. The Argentine talisman has been derided for his lack of trophies on the international stage. Given that he turned 34 during the course of the tournament, Messi knew that he wouldn't have many more chances to silence his detractors in that regard.
Messi finished the tournament as the joint-top scorer at the tournament alongside Colombia's Luis Diaz. He was also the top assist provider in the continental competition, racking up five assists in seven appearances.
Suffice to say, Messi was Argentina's most influential player at Copa America 2021.
#4 Won the Pichichi Trophy in the 2020-21 season
Lionel Messi started the 2020-21 season on an underwhelming note by his own lofty standards. It was understandable given the fact that he had a falling out with the board and had even informed them of his intention to leave the club.
But he kicked into top gear halfway through the season. Messi started scoring at a prolific rate and tugged Barcelona back into the title race almost single-handedly. It didn't amount to much in the end as the Catalans capitulated in the closing weeks of the season.
However, Messi still won the Pichichi Trophy for the top goalscorer in La Liga, scoring 30 goals in 35 appearances and also providing 11 assists. He was well clear of his competition with second-placed Karim Benzema and Gerard Moreno managing to score just 23 goals in 34 and 33 appearances respectively.
It could prove to be a major boost for Messi in this year's Ballon d'Or race.
#3 Best Player at Copa America 2021
This summer was a special one for Lionel Messi on the international front. His illustrious career deserved a major international trophy. It looked like Messi would stop at nothing to win the tournament right from when he walked out with La Albiceleste this summer.
Messi scored four goals and provided nine assists in seven appearances in the continental competition. He also created six big chances and played as many as 21 key passes over the course of the tournament.
Messi also won possession seven times in the final third, and completed 4.8 dribbles per game at a success rate of 68%. It's clear from these stats that Messi turned in well-rounded performances at the Copa America and he was quite simply the best player in the tournament.
#2 Most man of the match awards in the 2020-21 season
Man-of-the-match awards are a good measure of how consistent and dominant a player is over the course of a season. In that regard, no other player in the race for the Ballon d'Or even comes close to Lionel Messi.
According to Whoscored.com, Messi won a whopping 22 man of the match awards in the 2020-21 season in La Liga. The second player on the list is Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, who won 13 man of the match awards in the Premier League last term.
Lewandowski, who is Messi's biggest rival in the race for the 2021 Ballon d'Or, won just 11 man of the match awards in the 2020-21 Bundesliga season.
#1 Winning Copa America
Winning the Copa America has to be Lionel Messi's crowning achievement this year. It is a competition that has given Messi several heartbreaks. But he was determined to turn it around this time as he won the title with the national team. To cap it off, Messi was named the best player at the tournament.
At the end of the 2020-21 club season, it didn't look like he would be the favourite to win the Ballon d'Or. However, he turned it around in the summer by guiding Argentina to continental glory.
Players need to win major trophies to boost their credentials in the Ballon d'Or race. Copa America is a major title and Messi immediately became a frontrunner for the Ballon d'Or after winning the continental competition.
Not only did Messi simply win the Copa America but he was also the best player at the tournament.