This year’s edition of the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala saw Lionel Messi win the award for a record fifth time. Messi beat rivals Neymar Jr. and Cristiano Ronaldo, who walked away with the accolade the previous two years. The Argentine captain received 41.33% of all votes ahead of Portuguese captain Ronaldo who got 27.76% and Brazilian captain Neymar who earned 7.86% of the total votes. Messi won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 “It is a very special moment to win another Ballon d’Or after watching Cristiano win.  It’s incredible this is my fifth, more than I dreamed of as a kid.” said a very jubilant Messi. His son and fiancé were also present at the gala to celebrate the happy occasion.

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Fondly called as The Flea by his fans, Messi’s story is nothing short of a fairy-tale.  From playing on the streets of Rosario to playing under shimmering lights of the Camp Nou, Europe’s largest stadium, Messi’s journey has been exceptional, to say the very least. A boy from a middle class family, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency at the age of 11, stunting his physical development. He had to take hormone injections every day for three consecutive years. To add to his misery, Leo’s father lost his job leaving the family in a scramble for money. Messi had nothing and people who have nothing understand the value of things.“When he didn’t have a ball, he used to play with a bottle.” It’s said ‘fortune favours the brave’ and that is exactly what this tiny, skinny, fragile kid was- brave. Packing his dreams and ambitions in a suitcase Messi moved halfway across the globe to La Masia, Futbol Club, Barcelona’s youth academy to do what he loved the most, and the rest as the cliché goes, is history.

Making his debut in 2004, Messi established himself among the world’s best players before the age of 20 and was imperative in helping FC Barcelona achieve dominance in Europe by winning the historic sextuple. Being an avid Barca fan I still remember the day this skinny little boy debut a team dominated by the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel Eto. What this boy could do with the ball was enough for us to see that he was clearly meant for great things in life and was fortunate enough to be embraced by the senior players in the team. Ronaldinho was quick to take him under his wing famously commenting that “Messi would be better than me” at the point everyone thought the Brazilian was just being modest and encouraging. But the Brazilian knew better. Messi quickly made a space for himself in the star studded team.

What Messi does with ball is mesmerizing, his finishing skills are deadly and his controls are flawless. Barcelona coach Luis Enrique describes him as “a player from another dimension”, with numbers, stats and records supplementing it. A nightmare for defenders, Messi defies all odds. He seems to know what defenders will do even before they do, easily evading even three to four opponents surrounding him, trashing the concept of’ ‘numerical advantage‘. Perhaps he possesses supernatural powers. His genius transcends tactics, rigidity and norm.

Leo has come a long way, I remember his first Ballon d’Or  Gala in 2007. He looked like an out of place kid who had been forced to wear a tux and sit quietly when he’d rather be on the field with a ball by his feet. 9 years later he won the award for the historic fifth time and in the audience was his son, cheering daddy. Witnessing that I think to myself  ýes it has been that long, from a kid to having a kid Messi has come a long way professionally and personally and so have we.

Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former manager once commented “Don’t write about him. Don’t try to describe him. Watch him.” and perhaps that’s the wisest advice anyone has given, for words cannot do justice to this magician.

#12YearsOfMessiMagic hoping for at least 12 more

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