Another magical year for Messi

The Argentine may have failed to win La Liga for the first time under Pep Guardiola, and the Champions League also eluded him and his team mates, but for Messi, this has been a landmark year.

Now the club’s all time top scorer, he netted a stunning 73 goals in all competitions for Barcelona in 60 appearances. Add in five goals for Argentina and two in friendlies and Messi has 80 goals this campaign. It is a barely conceivable achievement. Utterly remarkable and quite simply unique – Messi’s brilliance has been showcased week after week after week.

He has broken a Spanish league record with 50 goals this season (in 38 games) and notched the top scorer award in the Champions League for the fourth successive time. He is the all time best goalscorer in Europe, and the second player ever to score more than 70 goals in a season – the last was Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in 1925 in the American league.

With 27 assists, Messi can claim a significant role in over 100 goals in one season. The statistics can sometimes lie, but in Messi’s case, they are revealing and show a quite stunning brilliance. He also matched a Champions League record for goals in a season, as well as scoring five in one match for the first time in the competition’s history. He has also scored seven goals in four cup finals this season (albeit five matches overall). He has also won the Ballon D’Or for the third time in a row – a record matched only by Michel Platini, and is one of four men to have won the award three times. The other two are Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff. It is not bad company to keep. For Cruyff, van Basten and Platini that is, for Messi is well and truly on the way to greatness on a level with Pele and Diego Maradona.

It is all the more remarkable as he is less selfish on the field than Cristiano Ronaldo, who will shoot from positions he has little right from. For Messi, it is always about who is in the best position. If it is him, he does not hesitate to pull the trigger. If it is someone else, he is similarly quick to release them.

Now we will see if he can repeat such heroics even without Pep Guardiola, so integral to Barcelona’s success in these years in which Messi has shone so much. Doubtless he will continue to be the brilliant player he is, but whether he can continue at such a high level without the coach who has taken Barcelona so far is a valid question. So much of Barcelona’s play of course is collective, and Messi is a ruthless beneficiary of their excellence

He may be remembered most this season for that failed penalty miss against Chelsea, but for Messi he is notable not for one error proving that he is human, but for a quite incredible consistency.