Why Lionel Messi already deserves the Ballon d'Or
Background photo: Tsutomu Takasu, CC BY 2.0
It's the business end of the season. Clubs are poised for trophies. Top players are set to be recognised for excellent campaigns. Although the Champions League hangs in the balance, it's self-evident that Lionel Messi deserves a sixth Ballon d'Or.
Left out of the final three-man shortlist last term following a failed Champions League campaign with Barcelona and mediocre World Cup with Argentina, the award went to Luka Modric, who scooped the Champions League trophy with Real Madrid and made the World Cup final with Croatia. Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann joined him on the podium. Messi responded to the snub as a great player should, by proving his worth at the earliest opportunity.
Leo's been nothing short of brilliant in 2018/19. Enjoying another prolific campaign, his efforts are responsible for keeping Barcelona in the hunt for another historic treble this season.
The Argentine opened his account with a brace against Deportivo Alaves in his first La Liga game. He followed up with another brace against Huesca. Building on that start, he's gone from strength to strength.
With 34 goals and 15 assists from 32 La Liga appearances, the Pichichi awaits in Spain. Messi is also the top scorer and leading creator across Europe's top-five leagues, notching 40 goals for the tenth consecutive season. He'll add another European Golden Shoe to his cabinet in June.
Barca claimed the Primera Liga title for the 26th time last week. The Catalans owe so much of that success to their talisman. With two goals and three assists in four appearances, the 31-year-old also fired his team into the Copa Del Rey final, the decider against Valencia scheduled for May 25.
Chasing the trophy that's eluded him for the past three seasons, he's bagged a tenner in the Champions League while creating three more. There is still work to do against Liverpool before he and Barcelona can book a locker room at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid for the final. His brace against Manchester United at the Nou Camp helped Barca to break their quarterfinal hoodoo, however, sealing their progress into the semifinals.
In a non-World Cup year, the Champions League represents the highest parameter to measure a player's performance. Messi's numbers surpass everyone's. At this late stage, it's inconceivable anyone else would hoist the trophy.
He's helped by the fact fellow five-time Ballon d'Or recipient, Cristiano Ronaldo failed to power Juventus beyond the quarterfinals. The Portuguese had just six goals in the tournament this time around, not his best although he maintains his place as the competition's all-time scorer.
The award's current holder, Luka Modric, suffered through an abysmal campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu. The 33-year-old may not be playing in a white shirt next season. Antoine Griezmann also struggled with Atletico Madrid this season.
Messi's closest competitor in goals and assists in 2018/19 is Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe. The young Frenchman didn't fade like others who enjoyed World Cup success. With teammate Neymar injured for most of 2019, the former Monaco star became the man at the Parc des Princes.
That said, PSG exited the competition in humiliating fashion, failing to defend a 2-0 advantage and their own ground against Manchester United in their Round of 16 second-leg. While he deserves to be on the podium this year, it would be a major sin for the powers that be to overlook Messi again. Mbappe's time is coming but this is Lionel Messi's year once again.