In 2011-12, Lionel Messi, in all probability, had one of the best seasons in football history.
For the Argentine national team, which had fallen short in last summer’s Copa America on home soil, Messi was finally given the captain’s armband and became the obvious focal point in any team strategy for new manager Alejandro Sabella.
Under Messi’s leadership, Argentina has started to click again and has returned to being the constant attacking threat it was when Juan Roman Riquelme was pulling the strings. The playmaker scored in three of the team’s friendly victories, with hat-tricks against both Switzerland and Brazil, and steered the team to a 3-1-1 record in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers, scoring in three of their five matches.
However, nothing compares to what he managed for FC Barcelona.
Prior to helping them secure the Copa Del Rey trophy in May, la Pulga broke the league scoring record, European scoring record, and became Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer at only 25-years-old. And, while the club failed to reclaim the La Liga and Champion’s League crowns, they did once again emerge as Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, and World Club Championship winners as a result of Messi’s unprecedented playmaking and finishing.
So, how does the three-time World Player of the Year, who scored 73 goals in all club competitions and 9 with his country's last campaign, improve for 2012-13 season?
Unfortunately, with a player of the diminutive Argentine’s standard, there is no way of making any kind of accurate prediction.
At Barcelona, Messi has improved his goal tally every season since the 2007-08 campaign and has consistently been among the top assisters in Europe. His streak of four consecutive Champion’s League top scorer awards is unmatched in the history of the competition.
If there is no external influence on the FIFA Balon d’Or nomination for this year, Messi should walk away with his fourth award and will look to add further to his yearly achievements with Argentina taking on the bulk of their remaining World Cup qualifying matches in 2012-13. If Messi can lead his country to the top of the CONMEBOL standings and help Barcelona regain the La Liga trophy from their archrivals Real Madrid, the following campaign will be an obvious success.
The Albicelestes have been world’s better under Messi’s captainship, as they illustrated in their 3-1 away demolition of Germany yesterday. He has also begun to add goals to his arsenal in the national team jersey and if Sabella continues to trust and surround him with quality attacking players such as Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, and Sergio Aguero, and not shuffle the rest of the pack too much, Argentina may be one of the favorites to reclaim the World Cup for the South America region, alongside hosts Brazil.
Barcelona has not added much to their lineup in the transfer window, but with Xavi starting to require more rest with age and Thiago Alcantara failing to develop as quickly as many hoped, Messi will be looked on to provide much more of the creation in attack. With David Villa healthy again, this could prove an easier task than it would have last campaign.
Finally, in terms of goals, it is unlikely that Messi would surpass his record-breaking tally of 50 in La Liga and 73 in all competitions for 2011-12, but he should still lead the team in scoring and will be looking to claim his fifth straight Golden Boot in the Champions League, where Barcelona look to redeem themselves after a cruel semi-final elimination to Chelsea in the previous competition.
So, the 2012-13 season appears that it will be another fascinating one for the miniature Argentine and Barcelona history-maker.
Messi's first competitive action will be the Supercopa de España first-leg against Real Madrid on the 23rd of August.