Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi.
By far the best player in the world, and quite possibly the best player of all time, the number one choice for this award was an easy decision, and it will come as no surprise that it goes to Lionel Messi.
The Argentine is quite simply on a different level to anyone else in world football right now, making the best defenders in the world look like amateurs, unable to stop him tearing them apart when he is in full flow.
Still only 25, Messi has so much more to go on and achieve, and a World Cup win with Argentina would surely sway the few doubters that remain that he is in fact a better player than the legendary Diego Maradonna, who led a weaker Argentina team to glory in the competition basically all by himself. Many argue that Messi benefits greatly from having some of the best midfield playmakers ever to play the game in Xavi and Iniesta supplying him with the assists at Barcelona, but it could also be possible that his superb ability and finishing brings their assist stats even higher, as he finishes chances that ordinary players couldn’t dream of.
Although he spearheads an incredibly talented and attack-minded Barcelona team, his absence through injury towards the end of this season showed how much they rely on his quality, and it’s not a rare sight to see him simply taking on entire defences by himself and scoring from all kinds of angles.
A product of the club’s youth academy, Messi broke into the Barca first-team when he was just 17 years old, and looked very much at home alongside star players like Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o in Frank Rikjaard’s Barcelona team. However, it was under Pep Guardiola’s guidance that he truly became world class, scoring 38 goals in 2008/09 to help Barcelona win the treble.
His goal stats just got better and better. He followed up that campaign with 47 goals in 2009/10, 53 in 2010/11, and a truly astonishing 73 goals in 2011/12 – numbers that are simply unimaginable in a game where a tally of 30 in a season earns you the status as one of the best in the world.
But as mentioned, it is not just the sheer quantity of goals (and assists, as he often drops deep to good effect to play in team-mates as well), but the quality as well, as he just seems unstoppable from any angle or distance. His match-winning performances have earned him everything there is to win at club level, with six La Liga titles, three Champions League trophies, three Copa Del Reys and a Gold medal with Argentina at the 2008 Olympics.
On an individual basis, he has won the Ballon D’Or four times – more than any other player, a Guiness World Record for 91 goals scored for club and country in a calendar year, most consecutive matches on the score sheet (19), and a joint-highest record of 5 goals in a single game in European football.
In La Liga, he is the scorer of the most hat-tricks in a single season with 8, and the most goals scored in the famous El Clasico derby with Real Madrid, with 18. He is already Barcelona’s leading scorer of all time with 313 goals for the club in 379 appearances. He is quite simply out of this world, and modern football fans are privileged to watch this footballing genius play.