Lionel Messi is widely regarded as the greatest of all time. Some say Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s argument isn’t baseless. But in my opinion, the Argentinian epitomises the beautiful game. Either way, that’s an argument for another day.
This article revolves around yesterday’s Ballon d’Or ceremony. 2019 was a two horse race for football’s greatest individual accolade. Between the Blaugrana legend and the world’s best defender. Leo Messi and Virgil Van Dijk. When the former was announced as the winner, it was perhaps more divisive than previous years. Luka Modric’s win last year was a complete anomaly, so I’m ignoring it. In fact the margin of the percentage of Ballon d’Or points was one of the closest EVER.
Yep, it was a toss up between the La Liga winner and Champions League winner. People, mainly Liverpool fans, are arguing Van Dijk’s achievements in 2018/19 eclipsed Messi’s. His impact since arriving on Merseyside, the silverware and how he has transformed the side’s defence. However, I want to make the argument for why Leo Messi deserved to win his 6th Ballon d’Or:
Lionel Messi – The numbers
Statistically, the 32 year old was once again on another planet in 2018/19. The sheer consistency of him and Cristiano Ronaldo puts them both in their own league. No disputing it. The Messiah scored 51 goals in all competitions. Truly astonishing when you look at it independently. But because its him, we just view it as another day in the office for one of the greats. Oh and he laid on a further 13 assists in La Liga. Just in case you somehow weren’t already impressed!
Let’s break it down further. 5 shots per game, 2.7 key passes, 3.9 dribbles. We could be here forever justifying the sheer ruthlessness of Messi in front of goal. Whether that be dribbling past 5 defenders, scoring from long distance or setting up his teammates, the man is the heartbeat of Barcelona.
From the outside of Catalonia, people think the Spanish giants had a decent season. La Liga and Supercopa winners isn’t exactly bad. But fans are calling for Ernesto Valverde’s head with the brand of football and questionable tactics. It’s only the greatness of Lionel Messi that is still keeping him at the helm.
The sheer reliance of this team on Argentina’s all time top scorer is ridiculous. You take Van Dijk out of Liverpool, of course they’ll struggle a bit more, perhaps concede a few more goals and drop some points. No doubt about it. But if you take Messi out of Barcelona, this team would struggle to finish in the top 4. I’m not even exaggerating.
The next top scorer after Messi was Luis Suarez with 25 in all competitions. Not terrible, but he’s been on the decline for the last two seasons. The Uruguayan hasn’t scored a SINGLE Champions League away goal since 2015. 4 years, crikey. His South American teammate has been dragging this side over the line for the last 2-3 seasons. Pretty much since Neymar left.
People keep claiming he bottled the Champions League semi-final. That 4-0 defeat at Anfield still hurts him to this day I imagine. But they forget the 3-0 lead in the first leg was all because of him. The first goal and sublime free kick for the 3rd. Where’s the blame for the defence or the midfield? Fans are now expecting miracles every game from Barcelona’s all time top scorer. But the fact of the matter is, he’s having to do it all by himself. There’s only so much you can expect, even from the greatest of all time.
Victim of his own success
I’m not claiming Van Dijk was bad. Not at all. He was extraordinary in 2018/19 and I’ll probably write an article arguing why he could have won it. It was that close. But you can’t penalise a genius for making greatness look like normality. Lionel Messi and perhaps Ronaldo too, are both becoming victims of their own success. A testament to why they’re the two greatest players of all time. But the Argentine deserved this year’s Balon d’Or, in my mind without a doubt. Appreciate greatness while you can. Because when he’s gone, all we’ll have is distant memories and YouTube clips.
Speaking of YouTube clips, here’s a video of the GOAT if you don’t believe a word of what we’ve said.
For more articles on the beautiful game, follow us on Twitter @TasteofFtbl