Football Magic Player of the Year 2016: Lionel Messi

There is no doubt, this was not the most straight-forward decision. For obvious reasons, this will cause controversy – but it’s time to explain why Lionel Messi is the 2016 Football Magic player of the year.

Firstly, I would like to stress that whilst the Ballon D’Or has very specific criteria, this award will be entirely based on performance over the course of the year, and nothing else.

Lionel Messi, is a class above. It’s simple. When deployed as a false nine under Pep Guardiola before the arrivals of Neymar and Luis Suarez, he scored goal after goal after goal. More than anyone else in the world by far.

And although times have changed, as he is now accompanied by two other certain South American forwards, he has become a different player – and arguably, even better.

He begins on the right, but has freedom to go where he likes, finding different pockets of space all over the pitch, appearing deep, on the left or sometimes even as a central striker.

Whilst Luis Suarez has arrived and is now scoring more goals than ever before, it is clear that whilst it doesn’t seem like Messi will ever hit the goal scoring heights of his incredible 91 goal year in 2012, he has not lost his ability in front of goal at all, as now, in a different position, with slightly less chances, he has still scored an outstanding 51 goals in 51 games for Barcelona, with a further 8 in the colours of his country.

In addition to that incredible feat, the link established with Neymar and Suarez has seen him showcase his fantastic ability to consistently set up for his team-mates, with 32 assists this year.

Still, despite all that, some may still argue that Ronaldo or Suarez have still been better.

After all, the Portuguese did completely turn a 0-2 deficit on its head in the Champions League with a hat-trick against Wolfsburg, and at times he has looked unstoppable this year, especially with his sensational four goal haul against Celta Vigo last March.

As for Suarez, an incredible run of form at the end of 2015/16 wrapped up the title and the cup for Barcelona, with 14 goals in just 4 games at one stage, and countless important goals and assists.

However, no matter how deep you look into goals, assists and trophies, all too often people miss the performances.

By looking at the stats, Messi scored one goal and made no assists in last weekends 4-1 win over Espanyol.

But, analysing the match fully, Messi quite simply did things that weren’t human in that game.

After impressive work from Iniesta to feed the ball into Messi 25 yards from goal, a classy nutmeg in a tight area followed by the dismantling of the Espanyol defence, taking a further four defenders out of the equation with insane balance, dribbling and control, a quick toe-poke forced the goalkeeper into parrying the ball into the path of Luis Suarez, who slotted home.

Immediately after this, he received the ball 25 yards from goal once again, this time showing unbelievable acceleration and terrific skill to blast through three defenders, with the ball eventually falling to Jordi Alba who smashed the ball into the corner after Messi had weaved his way through another maze.

Later on in the game, a swift counter attack, where the Argentinian once again lead the charge, saw Messi find Suarez before continuing his run into the area. Suarez then demonstrated their near telepathic link with an inch perfect chipped ball into Messi’s path allowing him to finish coolly and make it 4-1.

So, by looking at the stats, the fact that for his first mazy run the ball came off the goalkeeper before Suarez scored, and for his second the ball flicked off the defender’s knee before falling for Jordi Alba, he only scored one goal, and officially, no assists.

But, by analysing the performance, we can tell that the skill he portrayed in that game was second to none.

But wait, you might say, you can’t say he’s been the best player in 2016 because of one match.

And that’s true. But it hasn’t just been one match.

There were similar dribbles against Celta Vigo last season that defied any law, and in that same game, where Barca triumphed 6-1, his audacious pass to Suarez from the penalty spot showed not only how un-selfish he is, as had he taken and converted the spot-kick he would have scored 300 La Liga goals, but it also showed what a unique talent he is.

More jaw-dropping moments this year include his out-standing free-kicks against Colombia and USA, or an impossible, perfectly waited long-range pass for Luis Suarez against Real Betis, as well as two brilliant goals against the same opposition on the first day of this season.

Whether it’s his dribbling, passing, finishing, free-kicks, balance, composure or just all round brilliance, in my opinion there is no doubt that he is the best player in the world, and in 2016, he’s been no different.