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Is there anything in the world left for Lionel Messi to achieve after fifth Ballon d'Or win?

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5.03K   //    12 Jan 2016, 02:22 IST
Lionel Messi 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or
Lionel Messi is congratulated by Cristiano Ronaldo after winning the 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or

Lionel Messi has just been anointed with his fifth Ballon d’Or – an unprecedented achievement and one that rightly crowns him as best player on the planet yet again. It is perhaps worthwhile just to sit back and reflect on what this means.

A 28-year-old who is now at least two “Best Player in the World” awards ahead of any other player in football history. Not only that, but he has been runner-up four times too – in the top two in the world over a nine-year period.

Some will say he should be collecting his sixth being as one of Ronaldo’s will forever remain tainted – FIFA opening up the vote again after the Portuguese destroyed Sweden in a World Cup qualifier. It is pertinent to be reminded that before the votes were re-cast, Messi was ahead of his contemporary.

No matter.

Messi’s legacy will stand the test of time

Even with Neymar seemingly ready to take on his mantle, Messi still has enough in his locker to at least bag one, possibly two more Ballon d’Or’s to lay claim, without any doubt, as to being the best player that has ever played the game.

Johan Cruyff, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer, Eusebio, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Pele.

Lionel Messi goalscoring record La Liga
Will Messi’s goalscoring records ever be broken?

None of those names mentioned have achieved anywhere near the individual success that Messi has managed. Yes, a FIFA World Cup still eludes him and the notion that he has to win one to truly be considered the best still floats about. But anyone with half a brain that has watched the mercurial genius in action is well aware of where Messi stands in that particular pantheon of greats.

The roll call of honours throughout his club career, whether individual or team based, is virtually unsurpassed. And certainly his numbers will stand the test of time.

Already he is the highest goalscorer in the history of La Liga, the person with most assists in La Liga, a handful behind Cristiano Ronaldo for most ever goals in the Champions League (but with two-and-a-half years in age on his contemporary), the top scorer in El Clasico matches against Real Madrid and El Derbi matches with Espanyol.

Messi thrives no matter what his position

With alarming regularity, he often is the player with the most completed passes in a game and he has played as a false nine, a winger, a number 10 and a more general attacking-midfield role with no drop off in quality.

No drop off in quality.

Lionel Messi Camp Nou
Messi never fails to entertain the Camp Nou crowd who flock to the venue every other week to witness the Argentine weave his magic on the pitch

Consider that if you will. How many players in the history of football can you name that have managed to be the best in whichever position they have been asked to play other than their most natural one? I’ll give you a clue. There isn’t anyone. Messi stands alone.

Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo is a goalscorer par excellence, and a monster of a natural athlete. If you are looking for a perfect specimen, Ronaldo is it. No question. But the record books show that he is in Messi’s slipstream in almost every area and frankly we will never see the Portuguese as a ground-breaking number 10 anytime soon. Over 90 goals in a calender year anyone?

Messi Ronaldo Conversion
Messi’s supposed weaker right foot has an amazing conversion rate (Image courtesy Sporting Intelligence)

What is left for Messi to achieve?

It does pose a question as to what else is left for Messi to achieve in the game and in fairness the answer is a relatively simple one. To continue on the path of greatness for as long as is possible, winning as much as possible in the meantime.

Before Messi made his debut at Barcelona, they had won two Champions League titles in their entire history. The Argentine has authored three wins in six years since.

La Liga titles have found their way to the Camp Nou like a sprinkling of confetti and they just keep coming. In an age where Real Madrid have spent over a billion pounds to try and achieve the kind of success that Barca have become accustomed to in recent times, Messi’s emergence and continued excellence has ensured that the majority of Florentino Perez’s cash has been worthless.

Many have come at the Santiago Bernabeu, few have managed to ensure Messi’s influence has been diluted to a level as to make him almost human.

MSN Barcelona
The trio of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar – aka MSN – has tormented defences for over a year

As his role continues to evolve, the emergence of Neymar and a partnership with Luis Suarez cannot be overlooked. 180 goals in a calendar year is a preposterous amount but Messi, of course, played the fullest part. The fire is far from burning itself out but can the bar be set even higher by the world’s best?

More goals in a season, more wins, more assists...

Another accusation often levelled at Messi is that La Liga is a two-team league and one in which he finds it incredibly easy to go about his work. With Pep Guardiola almost certain to move to Manchester City in the summer, there is a hint of mischief in the notion that Messi could follow his father figure to the Premier League. Messi was a creation perfected by Guardiola after all.

It would certainly silence any remaining doubters if the Argentine captain were to move to the sky blue half of Manchester because, despite the close attentions of the best that the Premier League has to offer, Messi is still head and shoulders above them in a playing sense.

His legend is assured already and Barcelona will be doing everything to ensure such a move remains nothing but a pipe dream.

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Freelance sports journalist. Member of the Sports Journalist's Association, Football Writers' Association and International Sports Press Association.
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