Lionel Messi: Expectations for Barca Striker Should Be Tempered After Epic 2012

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 31, 2012

VALLADOLID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 22:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on before the La Liga game between Real Valladolid and FC Barcelona at Jose Zorrilla on December 22, 2012 in Valladolid, Spain.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

In today's microwave Digital Age, it's important to keep FC Barcelona striker Lionel Messi's 2012 campaign in perspective. Messi and football enthusiasts across the globe have enjoyed his truly epic season, and it should be appreciated for what it is as the new year approaches rather than swept under the rug in anticipation of an even better forthcoming season.

Messi's unique combination of speed, dribbling ability and uncanny knack for finding the net have made him a prototypical, zeitgeisty footballer of this generation. He is a prodigy with flashiness and class and is all-time great already.

It isn't unrealistic to believe that Messi could somehow improve upon his mind-boggling numbers, but the size of those expectations would diminish all that the prolific striker has accomplished. It is widely known that the 25-year-old broke Gerd Muller's longtime calendar year scoring record by posting 91 goals, but there were several other milestones Messi reached.

FC Barcelona's official website broke down some of his most notable career achievements through this year into one all-encompassing graphic, which unfortunately doesn't fit in here.

But the problem with this graphic is that it is already looking forward to the challenges that Messi is capable of tackling in 2013 and beyond—such as the goal total of Barca legend Paulino Alcantara.

That shouldn't be the focus. Although the site is just trying to promote the greatness of one of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch, more of an emphasis needs to be placed on the present—or recent past.

Messi has been dubbed this year's King of European Soccer by the press for the fourth consecutive time (h/t Fox News).

There is plenty of time for Messi to continue building his legacy, too. According to a report by Sports Illustrated, a contract extension was inked between Barca and Messi to keep the superstar with the club through 2018.

In even better news, Barcelona recently agreed to new contracts for passing extraordinaire Xavi Hernandez and stout defender Carles Puyol. That locks up two key members of Messi's supporting cast for the foreseeable future.

La Liga has been absolutely dominated by the Catlans, as they sit nine points clear of Atletico Madrid in the latest standings. There is nothing to indicate that such a development will change anytime soon.

However, it is easy to imagine that Messi will fall short of the previously unreachable standard he established this year. That's the curse of being so good so young, since Messi compares favorably to any player past, present or any imaginable talented prospect in the future.

Before determining whether Messi is the very best of all time or not, it's important to savor the moment. No one will ever forget the 2012 campaign he put together.

Even if he never tops it, any remote decline Messi's statistics shouldn't be viewed as a decline in his overall play. He still has so many matches in front of him to continue writing his historic legacy, and that is what world football lovers should be most excited about.

Instead of moving onto what's "next" in this fast-paced world, make this minor new year's resolution as a sports fan: appreciate the future of unlimited promise that Messi brings, but sit back and let his unbelievable 2012 virtuosity sink in first.


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