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Lionel Messi began the new year the same way he ended the last, breaking records. The Barca goal machine rewrote the record books again last night picking up his fourth consecutive FIFA Ballon d’Or gong.

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The Argentina forward received a staggering 41.60% of the votes, with Christiano Ronaldo taking 23.68% in second while Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta polled 10.91% of the votes in third.

Messi scored a spectacular 91 goals last year, beating Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old record of 85 goals in a calendar year. The remarkable achievement has strengthened Messi’s claim to be considered as the greatest footballer to walk the earth and his fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or gong justifies his claim.

The records do not stop there, in March 2012 Messi became the first player to score five goals in one Champions League match, the feat was achieved in Barcelona’s 7-1 hammering of Bayern Leverkusen. He also equalled Josè Altafini’s record of 14 goals in a single Champions League campaign, making him the top-scorer in the competition for the fourth consecutive season, another record.

In La Liga Messi set yet another record bagging 50 goals during the 2011/12 campaign and was the most prolific goal scorer in Europe with 73 goals in the same season.

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As the proverbial saying goes the statistics speak for themselves and there is no denying Messi has been the stand out player of 2012. But many critics believe his success is heavily reliant on the players around him, in particular Xavi and Iniesta. The two Spaniards are often described as the architects behind Messi’s success. But, as I stated earlier, the statistics speak for themselves and when you look at the number of assists the pair provided only 13 of the 91 goals were created by one of the two, 5 for Xavi and 8 for Iniesta. Therefore 86% of Messi’s goals were created by himself or other assists which proves the Barcelona forward was not overly reliant on the magical Xavi and Iniesta.

“Messi has never played in the Premier League” is another argument against Messi being the greatest player to walk the earth. But the question is, why does a player have to play in England to be acknowledged as the world’s greatest player? What makes the Premier League superior to La Liga or any other league for that matter?

Beckenbauer, van Basten, Cruyff, Eusėbio, Pelė, Platini, Ronaldo and Zidane are just a number of players that could stake a claim for the title of greatest footballer the world has ever seen, but what else links them all together? Well, not one of them has graced the English football leagues with their footballing talents, so why should Messi change suit and prove his worth on a cold, rainy night at Stoke? There is no need at all, the Argentine has already proven himself in the greatest footballing league in the World and has continued to thrive in the Champions League. The ironic thing is Messi claimed 2012 was not his greatest year, god help us if he betters himself this year.

Messi, the world’s greatest.

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