It’s been a magnificent year for Lionel Messi, the Barcelona and Argentina star who is a favorite to win his fourth FIFA Ballon d’Or award on January 7, 2013, a trophy given annually to the world’s best football player.

Messi scored both of Barcelona’s goals December 12 in a 2-0 road victory against Cordoba in the Copa del Rey tournament, an annual competition for Spanish

Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona


It raised his total for the year to a record 88 goals. On December 9, Messi scored twice against Real Betis to break Gerd Mueller’s record of 85 goals in a year for club and country, set in 1972.

The 67-year-old Mueller, nicknamed Der Bomber  for his prolific goalscoring during his playing days, paid tribute to Messi: “My record stood for 40 years – 85 goals in 60 games – and now the best player in the world has broken it, and I’m delighted for him. He is an incredible player, gigantic.”

This gigantic and incredible year has been pulled off by a 1.69 meter tall (5 ft. 7 in.) superstar who was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency as a boy. Barcelona, aware of his prodigious talent, paid for his medical bills, a fact highlighted in this funny, animated video.
At the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Messi did not score a single goal, but he created multiple chances for teammates and, in the words of one World Cup blogger, was “desperately unlucky” in not finding the net. Argentina advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Germany, 4-0.

Messi and Argentina will have a short trip to neighboring Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, and I expect he’ll feel right at home on the world’s biggest football stage. Argentina, currently third in the FIFA world rankings behind Germany and #1 Spain, has to be considered a favorite for the title, so I won’t rule out Lionel Messi lifting that elusive World Cup trophy and sealing his status as the world’s greatest footballer.