Lionel MESSI
© AFP

Even though Barcelona did not lift a major trophy in 2012 – the Copa del Rey aside – Lionel Messi continued to go from strength to strength, amassing goals and records along the way. His achievements in 2012 included becoming Barça all-time leading goalscorer in official matches when he scored his 233rd goal on 20 March, breaking the record for the number of UEFA Champions League goals in a single season (14) and, with his 82 goals in all competitions, he edges ever closer to breaking the record held by the legendary Gerd Muller (85 goals). The three-time Ballon d’Or winner was no less impressive for Argentina either, helping them dominate the South American FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

His career
The diminutive Messi has come an awful long way since making his first-team debut for Barça in 2004. In amassing a glittering array of team honours and individual accolades since then, the Argentinian genius has often been compared with his illustrious compatriot Diego Maradona, and has proved a worthy bearer of the famous Albiceleste No10 jersey.

The most elusive of dribblers, Messi has a devastatingly quick turn of pace and a sixth sense when it comes to scoring goals. The winner of numerous titles already with his club, all that is missing on his extensive roll of honour is a FIFA World Cup™ winner's medal.

In 2011 he was promoted to the captaincy of his national side, with whom he ended a scoring drought of two years and seven months in official matches, while the Argentinian superstar reeled off the trophies again with Barcelona. The Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Spanish League, FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Champions League all came Barça’s way last year, with Messi ending the continent’s premier club competition as the leading scorer for the third season running.

Messi also picked up the inaugural UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, ahead of team-mate Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo.