Messi's magic goes beyond the numbers

Published Jan. 10, 2011 8:58 p.m. ET

And yet, Messi didn’t do one big thing in 2010.

The fact is that those who say that because Messi couldn't work the same magic with Argentina he somehow doesn’t deserve this award, are missing the point. Messi did almost everything right in South Africa but even the best player in the world cannot both lead the orchestra and play second violin. At Barcelona, Messi is part of a system. With Argentina he was supposed to be both the pattern and the product. That’s both thankless and impossible.

Yes, Messi has profited from being surrounded by stars in Barcelona, but he usually manages to outshine even that cast. His numbers are remarkable.

Last year, Messi scored 60 goals for club and country in 2010, with 42 of those in league play. But mere numbers don't describe the way Messi plays. He is two steps ahead of everyone in thought and sometimes two steps ahead of them for pace, as well.

Like Xavi and Iniesta -- and either would have been a worthy winner -- Messi stands up to the demands of the modern schedule and continues to make us catch our breath with what he can deliver.

Consider that this year’s Ballon D’Or winner makes us argue about brilliance, not numbers. Consider also that with Messi’s selection we can talk about the best men who ever played the game, not merely the best in a given year.

Is all of that enough to settle the arguments? Of course not. But what true fan would have it any other way?

Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for covering the UEFA Champions League and European football.