Despite Barcelona’s collapse at the end of last season and Argentina losing to Brazil in the semi-finals of the Copa America, Messi’s genius was ever-present in 2019, for which he now stands alone in the history of the game’s most prestigious individual prize.
Four years after his last Ballon d’Or, Messi pulled clear of the five next to the name of
“It’s like he is extra-terrestrial,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde in March. “Every time he gets the ball something extraordinary seems to happen.”
Messi’s first season as club captain brought a third consecutive La Liga title and he scored the winner in the game that clinched it, a 1-0 victory over Levante.
He also claimed his sixth Pichichi Trophy as the division’s top scorer, with 36 goals in 34 matches.
But Barcelona unravelled as their 3-0 advantage over Liverpool —to which Messi contributed a brace — went up in smoke at Anfield and the club crashed out in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
They were then beaten by Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey, when Messi’s tap-in proved a consolation, but it was his voice that spoke loudest in defence of coach Valverde, whose survival owed much to the support of his captain.
Messi had led the way on the pitch too, particularly during the run-in when he scored 16 goals in 12 games as Barcelona put together a relentless winning streak. “This league has one person’s name on it,” wrote Diario Sport.
50th career hat-trick
He scored his 50th career hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Sevilla and in April, another hat-trick began with a freekick into the top corner and ended with a sweeping chip from the edge of the area that was so good even the Real Betis fans felt compelled to applaud.
When asked about their reaction, Messi said: “To be honest I don’t remember anything like that.”
His goal was nominated in the
“His goal was something you do playing Playstation.” After finishing the Champions League as top scorer with 12 goals and collecting his sixth Golden Shoe for a record third consecutive year, Messi joined up with Argentina for the Copa America, a tournament that kickstarted a frustrating three months for the 32-year-old.
Messi was sent off against Chile in the third-place play-off and his comments about the refereeing drew him a three-month suspension from international football.
A return to Barcelona should have offered some respite but Messi suffered a calf injury on the first day of pre-season before a thigh strain meant he would not begin playing regularly again until October.
Yet he made up for lost time by scoring six goals in five games and then a hat-trick against Celta Vigo, this time a treble made up of set-pieces, two from free-kicks and one a penalty. It was his 34th hat-trick in La Liga, equalling Ronaldo’s record in the Spanish top flight.
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