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Lionel Messi - The best player in the world

Lionel Messi. Global superstar and the best footballer on the planet. At only 24, the young Argentine isn’t even in his prime and is still producing magical displays. Many say he is heir to the throne left by Argentina legend Diego Maradona and some say he will become better than the former number 10.

After a sensational 53 goals and 24 assists in 55 appearances last season, Messi kicked off the new campaign with a trophy. Barcelona lifted the Spanish Supercup beating rivals Real Madrid 5-4 on aggregate. Messi contributed three goals and two assists and his intervention continued into their next official game against Porto. Messi instinctively latched on to a weak Fredy Guarin back pass to finish and also provided the assist for Cesc Fabregas to lead Barca to a 2-0 win and lift the UEFA Super Cup. This had previously been the only competition Messi failed to score in before this goal.

Messi’s league campaign began with two goals against Villarreal followed up by back to back hat-tricks in home games against Osasuna and Atletico Madrid. After scoring the first goal of the 8-0 rout against Osasuna, Messi produced a special celebration for a young 10 year old Moroccan boy, Soufian. Soufian was diagnosed with Laurin Sandrow syndrome which is a rare medical condition. Instead of his usual pointing to the sky celebration, Messi slapped his thighs in dedication to Soufian.

Barcelona's second highest scorer

In August, Messi became Barcelona’s second highest goal-scorer surpassing Laszlo Kubala on 194 goals. Only Cesar Rodriguez Alvarez has scored more with 235 goals in all competitions. Messi’s current total is 224 goals and is widely tipped to break the record this season or next.

His first Champions League goals of the season came against BATE Borisov bagging a brace. He netted two more league goals against Racing Santander and a wonderful hat-trick against RCD Mallorca. The Argentine scored another incredible hat-trick in the Champions League against Viktoria Plzen. His goals continued to flow after scoring a last minute equaliser against Atletico Bilbao and another strike against Real Zaragoza. He netted a penalty against AC Milan in the Champions League before scoring his first goal ever against Rayo Vallecano followed by a goal against Levante.

Next in the long line of titles won by the Argentina captain was the Club World Cup. Messi scored two in the final against Brazilian club Santos and was given the Man of the Match award and the Golden Ball for the tournament.

Messi then went on to win more individual awards for his scintillating performances. He clinched the 2011 UEFA Best Player in Europe award, pipping team-mate Xavi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo to the award. He also won the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or, again beating the same two opponents. By scooping this award, he became only the fourth player to win three Ballon d’Ors joining Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten. He is only the second player to win three consecutively after Michel Platini.

200 La Liga appearances

Messi marked his 200th La Liga appearance with a four goal flurry against Valencia in February. 200 league appearances at such a young age is an amazing achievement but scoring 147 goals and grabbing 64 assists makes his record speak for itself. On 7 March, Messi became the first player to score five goals in the Champions League after Barcelona defeated Bayer Leverkusen 7-1.

The name ‘Lionel Messi’ is a house-hold name around the globe. Fans around the world are fascinated by the pure skill and love for the game. Messi’s appeal is highlighted as EA Sports were quick to make Messi the global face of their new game FIFA Street. Previously on the cover for EA’s rival, Konami in their game Pro Evolution Soccer, Electronic Arts made Messi the face of the whole franchise. He will now become the cornerstone of marketing and advertising campaigns as well as being featured on packaging and social media events.

Messi has also set up the ‘Leo Messi foundation’, a charity supporting access to health care and education to vulnerable children. Messi had his own medical difficulties as at the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. River Plate showed an interest in bringing Messi from Newell's Old Boys but could not afford his £900 a month medical fees. Carlos Rexach, the sporting director of Barcelona, had been made aware of Messi’s ability and arranged a trial. Rexach had no paper at hand, so wrote Messi a contract on a napkin and offered to pay the fees if he and his father moved to Spain. Messi and his father both moved and Messi was enrolled in Barcelona’s youth academy.

His foundation offers Argentine children with illnesses, treatment in Spain and funds to cover the transport, hospital and recuperation costs. On 11 March 2010, Messi was unveiled as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. His UNICEF duties are aimed at supporting children’s rights. His role in UNICEF is echoed by Barcelona who have a strong association with the organisation.

The argument continues over who is the greatest player to have ever lived. Some say Pele others argue Maradona while Johan Cruyff cannot be forgotten. Messi in my eyes is already the best player in the world but if his lethal form continues over his career he will surely be the best player to ever grace a football pitch.

By Marcus Banks

To view part two of the three-part Legend series: Cristiano Ronaldo - Can he become the best? click here.


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