Messi on target for fourth Ballon d'Or
Lionel Messi is targeting a fourth successive FIFA Ballon d'Or award that would seal his status as the greatest player of his generation.
The Argentinean attacker is poised to claim the illustrious award for a record-breaking fourth consecutive year on Monday ahead of rival Cristiano Ronaldo after a memorable 12 months in world football.
After netting four goals in a La Liga clash with Valencia in February, he went one better in the UEFA Champions League a few weeks later, becoming the first player to score five as Barcelona crushed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 at the Nou Camp.
Barcelona waltzed into the quarter-finals with a 10-2 aggregate victory as Messi's tally moved within seven goals of becoming the club's record scorer.
And in December he achieved what many thought was impossible in the modern game, eclipsing German Gerd Muller's 40-year-old record of goals scored in one calendar year.
Muller scored 85 goals in 1972 but Messi's two strikes against Real Betis took the Argentine to 86.
He notched an incredible 91 goals in 2012 - a figure that surely only he himself is capable of breaking.
And Muller led the long line of tributes to the mercurial talent.
"My record stood for 40 years - 85 goals in 60 games," he said.
"And now the best player in the world has broken it. He is an incredible player, gigantic."
Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola also praised the 25-year-old.
"Like Michael Jordan in basketball, Messi is dominating his sport," Guardiola said.
"Very few people in history have managed to dominate their sport the way Jordan and Messi have.
"I feel sorry for those who want to compete for Messi's throne - it's impossible, this kid is unique."
The World Cup may still elude Messi but he has achieved almost everything at club level and if he lifts the Ballon d'Or once again on Monday that will surely settle the argument of who is the world's best.