Bettitude Striker Of The Year 2022: Lionel Messi
Written By Onyeka Daniel
The choice of Lionel Messi as the Forward/Striker of the year can be a bit controversial, given the fact that he usually operates from the playmaker role. In fact, he was recently crowned the playmaker of the year by IFHHS following his triumph with Argentina at the World Cup, an award he has already won 5 times already.
While his playmaking abilities have never been in doubt, he has also been scoring goals all through his career and 2022 wasn’t an exception either for the PSG forward. This season he has provided 30 assists and 102 key passes.
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To really appreciate Messi’s performance in 2022, there’s the need to do a backstory, starting from his unexpected exit from Barcelona, a club where he spent 21 years before being forced to leave in 2021 and subsequently joined PSG as free agent. In his first season in France, he would go on to struggle, battling with injuries and also settling into a new environment and these struggles were passed on to the Parisian club as well, leading to talks that the Argentine number 10 was finished and should start considering a retirement plan in an obscure League.
Then the new season kicked off, bringing with it, the World Cup that was going to be held at an unusual date, between November and December, when the season is supposed to be in full flight, meaning club football would have to be paused during that time. After overcoming his injury woes, the issue surrounding his future came up, as he was only contracted to PSG until 2023, but Messi decided to shun all talks about his future until after the World Cup as he wanted to be fully focused after announcing that it would be his last World Cup.
He started the season in style with PSG, scoring the first goal against Nantes in the French Super Cup, a game that they win 4-0. He then followed it up with two goals and an assist in the first game of the French League, away to Clermont. He would go on to score 7 goals and 10 assists in 13 games played to set the tone for the World Cup in Qatar.
It was at the World Cup that Messi really showed himself as he led the Le Albiceleste to their third World Cup triumph after a very long time and also cementing his place in history with several records set and broken and also seemingly winning the debate on who’s better between him and Cristiano Ronaldo. He scored in every game he played in Qatar, except for the game against Poland where he missed a penalty.
Here are the ten records broken by Messi at the World Cup:
1. Most Appearances (26): Messi broke the all-time record for most games played at a Men’s FIFA World Cup. The final was Messi’s 26th World Cup game, beating the previous record of 25 set by former Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaus.
2. First Ever Two-Time Golden Ball Winner: Messi was presented with the Golden Ball award after the final, having been voted as the official Player of the Tournament. He had also won the award at the 2014 World Cup. No other player has received the prize twice.
3. Most Player Of The Match Awards (11): Messi was named as the official Player of the Match in five of Argentina’s seven games at Qatar 2022. He has now won 11 World Cup Player of the Match awards during his career. The previous record was seven set by Cristiano Ronaldo.
4. Most Player Of The Match Awards At One World Cup (5): The only games at Qatar 2022 to feature Messi and not result in him winning the Player of the Match were Argentina’s 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia and their 2-0 victory over Poland. Mohammed Alowais and Alexis Mac Allister won the awards in those games.
5. Most Goal Contributions (21): Messi is only joint-fourth on the all-time World Cup list of leading scorers with 13 goals. But he is now top of the pile in terms of goals + assists with 21.
6. Most Games As Captain (7): Messi captained Argentina in all seven of their games at Qatar 2022. He has now worn the armband in a record-breaking 19 World Cup matches.
7. First Player To Register An Assist At Five World Cups: Ronaldo became the first player in World Cup history to score at five different tournaments when he netted for Portugal at Qatar 2022. Messi has only scored at four World Cups but he became the first man ever to record an assist at five tournaments – in 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022.
8. First Player To Score In Every Round: Messi scored in the group stage, the round of 16, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and then final. No player had ever scored in every round of a World Cup during its current format.
9. Most World Cups Played For Argentina (5): Messi became the first Argentine in World Cup history to perform at five different tournaments. Diego Maradona and Javier Mascherano both played in four World Cups. Angel Di Maria joined Maradona and Mascherano on four by playing at Qatar 2022.
10. Most World Cup Goals For Argentina (13): Messi more than doubled his tally of World Cup goals during Qatar 2022 by scoring seven times. That took his all-time World Cup goal count to 13, breaking the previous record of 10 set by Gabriel Batistuta.
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He also became the only player to score in the World Cup in his teens, 20s and 30s. Pele missed out on accomplishing the same by four months. And to crown it all, winning the World Cup in Qatar has made him the favorite to win the next Ballon d’Or award, which will be his eighth win, a record that will be hard to match and surpass for decades to come.
While this year can’t be described as Messi’s best year in terms of performances, it will go down in history as the year he etched his name in the history books as he won the only relevant trophy that has eluded him in his career after winning every available trophy for both club and country. Indeed, saying that he became the greatest of all time in 2022 would be closer to the truth.
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