In 2015, Barcelona’s Argentine superstar led his club to a La Liga, UEFA Champions League, and Copa del Rey treble, scoring 28 goals in the second half of the 2014-15 campaign alone. Fifty-two total in 61 games over the past 12 months. Damn. He had the best minutes-per-goal rate of any player across Europe’s top five leagues as well, with a goal every 80 minutes.
2015 marked the year that Messi was declared “best player of the last decade” by Pelé and “more complete than Cristiano” by Ronaldo Nazario. He also won La Liga’s best striker and player of the year awards at the LFP Gala Awards Ceremony, and followed domestic league victories with Best Player of the Year honors at the Globe Soccer Awards.
Perhaps most importantly, he was the only crack to feature twice on our Golazos del Año list!
The great thing about Messi’s Ballon d’Or victory? It is – without a shadow of a doubt – a byproduct of his team’s success. Messi had 15 league assists (26 total), which means that he was directly involved in 49 of Barça’s league goals, 24 of which were scored by fellow frontrunner and nominee Neymar in the second half of the club’s treble-winning season. In a world saturated with incredibly overhyped individual accolades – this regardless of how you feel the Ballon d’Or winner should be determined – Messi’s is a welcome win in my madridista mind.
Messi’s unwavering love and admiration for his teammates was evident in this morning’s presser, which featured the three finalists. He said that “Neymar is nobody’s successor. He will be himself, which is great. He will keep evolving and improving. Outside of being an extraordinary player, he is an even greater human being.” Cue all of the feels.
Neymar chimed in, stating, “I see and work with Leo everyday, so I admire him not just on the pitch but outside for the kind of person he is. I love and admire him.”
Sampaoli: "The worst thing to happen to football is that Messi has a great relationship with Suárez and Neymar. It seems unfair to others."
— Diana Kristinne (@DianaKristinne) January 11, 2016
For more Ballon d’Or-based excitement, check out this fantastic feature from Bleacher Report on the journeys to greatness of Messi, Neymar, and Cristiano, plus this video for all of Messi’s brilliant 2014/15 strikes. Also, think about this fact for a while:
A partir de esta tarde, Messi tendrá los mismos balones de oro que Cruyff y Di Stéfano juntos. Da hasta miedo pensarlo.
— MisterChip (Alexis) (@2010MisterChip) January 11, 2016
Other award winners listed below:
Women’s World Player of the Year: Carli Lloyd (USA, Houston Dash)
Puskás Award: Wendell Lira (Goianésia)
World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football: Jill Ellis (USA)
World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football: Luis Enrique (Barcelona)
Fair Play Award: Gerald Asamoah presented in recognition of the diverse fútbol organizations working to support refugees.
FIFPro World XI: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich), Thiago Silva (Brazil, PSG), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona), Andrés Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid), Paul Pogba (France, Juventus), Neymar (Brazil, Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid).