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Guillem Balague blogs on Lionel Messi's record-breaking genius, plus the form of Falcao and Ozil

Real Madrid - Guillem Balague Posted 10th December 2012 view comments

When Lionel Messi first arrived at Barcelona on trial at the age of 13 he already looked like a star in the making.

Even back then he was playing in the way that he does now - week in, week out - and he certainly hasn't disappointed!

Pep Guardiola realised in the last couple of months of his tenure that Messi was saturated and needed a little bit of 'fresh air' and Tito Valanova has supplied it by giving Messi the freedom to do whatever he wants.

Lionel Messi: his every action has meaning and threatens danger, says Guillem

Lionel Messi: his every action has meaning and threatens danger, says Guillem

Now whenever he intervenes in play, every action has meaning and threatens danger; as his record goal-scoring run proves, he has become the ultimate forward.

Even Messi can't do everything on his own and he was helped on Sunday against Real Betis by the movement of Alexis Sanchez, who cut inside and took the full-back with him, giving Messi the space he needed for his first, while Andres Iniesta's back-heel set up the second.

Falcao has to be up there with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo when you analyse his sharpness and effectiveness.

Guillem Balague
Quotes of the week

So it definitely helps to have the calibre of players around him that Barcelona possess - but that doesn't mean we aren't seeing something completely unique.


Unique is also a word that applies to Radamel Falcao's finishing.

There is a false debate doing the rounds at the moment asking whether he is the best striker in the world. When debates like this crop up we have to look at them through different eyes, because Barcelona (and Messi) have proved that you can be a striker without being a number nine.

That said, Falcao has to be up there with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo when you analyse his sharpness and effectiveness.

Interestingly enough, I think that if Ronaldo was a number nine - and only a number nine - he would be as good as Falcao.

Anyway, Falcao is helped by the fact that Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone asks him to stay around the box and to play with only one or two touches; if he sees goal, he has the licence to go for goal every time he can and everybody will forgive him if it doesn't go in because when it comes down to it, his fellow players know that he makes the difference to their fortunes.


Mesut Ozil completes the trio in this week's tale of three players.

This season is an emotional roller-coaster for him. Jose Mourinho keeps on giving him the stick, with the occasional piece of carrot thrown in, and when he scores - as he did twice against Real Valladolid - the coaching staff, in this case assistant coach Aitor Karanka, who did the press conference, say that he defended well!

But that's how Mourinho works; he demands absolutely everything from everybody at all times.

That's why his regimes don't tend to last as long as they might; he is constantly asking for more from the players, the staff, the fans and even the media!

Interestingly, Guardiola could have signed Ozil before Real Madrid but decided not to. Was that a mistake? Or was the simple fact that he had enough players?


It's official. The winner of this year's Ballon D'Or has been decided. The trouble is, nobody's saying who has won and nor will they until January 7.

I'm indebted to fellow journalist Paul Kelly, Ireland correspondent for the publication France Football and one of the voters for the eventual winner, for putting me right, after I suggested that Cristiano Ronaldo's goal in the Madrid derby would help his chances in the 2012 poll.

Paul tells me that the voting closed on November 8, so no performance since then will count in the final analysis.

The names of Iniesta, Messi and Ronaldo published last week sounds like a final shortlist for voters to choose from, but in reality the result is known at this stage. It's just that FIFA and France Football won't release it until January 7.

He also goes on to explain the history of the award and just how the votes are cast for the eventual winners.

Between 1956 and 2009, he tells me, the Ballon d'Or was organised by France Football with the vote being confined to football reporters only and that the vast majority of selections were very worthy.

For example, Matthias Sammer won the award in 1996 following his starring role in Germany's success in the 1996 Euro finals and Borussia Dortmund's second Bundesliga crown in succession.

However the same year in FIFA's World Footballer of the Year, elected by national team coaches and captains, it finished 1. Ronaldo; 2. Weah; 3. Shearer, with Sammer not making it into the top three.

In 2010 FIFA bought the prize from the Amaury Publishing Group and it is now voted for on the same basis as the former FIFA prize.

The electorate now consists of three colleges; journalists, (whose votes are collected by France Football), national team coaches and national team captains, (whose votes are gathered by FIFA).

Messi won it in 2010, ahead of Xavi and Iniesta, but in fact under the old system it would have been won by Sneijder who received the journalists' vote that year.

In Paul's opinion the change in format since FIFA bought the prize has tended to favour the biggest name contenders.

The old Ballon d'Or 1-5 voting system up to 2009 was more subtle: a fourth preference (worth two points) could influence the outcome, whereas the current system (worth five, three, and one points/point respectively) is less sophisticated.

It is also worth noting that there have been some glaring omissions in the 23 strong short list (down from 30 since FIFA took charge of the award). Diego Milito's exclusion in 2010 was beyond belief, while David Silva's failure to make the list this year was hard to fathom.

The same goes for the coach award. Sir Alex Ferguson won nothing in 2012 but was listed, unlike trophy winners Simeone, Girard and Renard who failed to make the list.

And before you ask how Paul and his colleague Jimmy Magee, who made up the Republic of Ireland jury, voted you should know that voters are not allowed to disclose their choices prior to the result being published so I'm afraid we'll all have to wait until January 7!

Guillem answers your questions...

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.

Comments (23)

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Alex Jones (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem Any truth in the meetings between Guardiola and Fergie ? What is your view on the chances of Guardiola taking over an Man Utd ? Thanks Alex

Posted 11:37 13th December 2012

Mohammed yusuf Dalal (Preston North End fan) says...

Hi! I just wanted to ask you to investigate the record of Zambian played Godfrey Chitalu who scored 107 goals in 1972, the same year Mueller scored his record tally of goals. Messi's record should not stand since Godfrey Chitalu scored more goals than him in a calender year. Fifa are investigating the complaint made by the Zambia FA and they are looking for the evidence. What is your opinion on this matter? Messi's record should not stand.

Posted 21:51 12th December 2012

Aidan Duke (Liverpool fan) says...

In your view.Who are the three most likely players who will make the switch from La Liga to the Premier league?and out of those three who do you think would have the biggest impact?

Posted 11:54 12th December 2012

Sai Karthik (Manchester United fan) says...

I really feel bad for Sneijder. He was robbed off a great honor like the Ballon d'Or. It has become as if the Ballon d'ór is awarded to the most talented football player rather than the best performing player that year. If this continues to be the case, then it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that it'll be a two-horse race every year just like the la liga title race is.

Posted 09:33 12th December 2012

Marcin Gargala (Barcelona fan) says...

Hi Guillem, The methods of the editors of one of the most "respectable" newspapers in Spain - Marca- amazes me. Firstly , they only give one goal to Messi name in a game against Bilbao altough officialy it stands as 2 goals, On the day when all the world was talking about Messi's record breaking 86 goals in a calendar year , according to Marca - Messi only scored 85 goals , so from they point of view no record broken yet. So what has Marca done ? After reviewing Muller's goals , they decided to bring his tally down to 84 claiming that his goal in an international match vs Russia was an own goal! Therefore according to Marca , Messi beat the record having scored 85 goals!! This newspaper has lost it's credibility in my eyes. What is your comment on that ? Now, isn't it a

Posted 08:49 12th December 2012

Trevor Vaughan (Manchester United fan) says...

I've a question, Take penalties out of the equation, how does Messi and Mullers records compare?

Posted 20:26 11th December 2012

Fraz Bari (Real Madrid fan) says...

Fantastic idea to put on Ballon D'or information Guillem! Really great to know! My question is: Despite Barcelona's statistics in the recent years, Is Barcelona really that good how people mention it and compliment it? Is it really the best team in history? Because, there have been many teams in the past as well enjoying glory in it's own days, e.g. the Cruyff Dream Team, Di Stefano's Real Madrid etc. Did they also get the praise of today's Barcelona and do they deserve it today?

Posted 13:16 11th December 2012

Arinze Okonkwo (Arsenal fan) says...

Regarding the voting for the Ballon D'Or, I suppose it is a question of whether votes being cast are recognising players and managers who have excelled in the period under question - or whether the best players and managers in that period are being recognised regardless of how much they have won. I suspect FIFA would tell you that the former is what they recognise, even though history suggests the voting colleges recognise the latter. It explains why Henry never won either the World Player of the year of Ballon D'Or, while Michael Owen won the Ballon D'Or in 2001. I also do not think it matters whether you win things or not in the year under review to be considered for such honours. In 2012, where the likes of Salomon Kalou, Ryan Bertrand, Oriel Romeu and Fernando Torres won both the Champions League and FA Cup, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who accepts that either of these players have had a better year than Messi. Overall, nobody can question Ferguson being named as one of the final contenders. For the past 15 years, he has been one of the top 3 managers in the world. This is coming from an Arsenal fan by the way.

Posted 11:28 11th December 2012

Ed Wright (Arsenal fan) says...

Hi Guillem, Re Falcao, Is he not one of these players that is great against teams below the top 6 a la Gareth Bale, But when it comes to the crunch games against the better teams he is found wanting? I have watched him recently against Real and he was anonymous and again last time out against Barca. He is scoring for fun yes, but for me he hasn't done it against the best yet, and with teams looking to part with ¿50m + for him, he could be a gamble come Champions League time.

Posted 09:52 11th December 2012

George Araklitis (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...

Hi Guillem. Llorente came out saying that he will leave in the summer. But would Bilbao allow him to leave in January for a fee? If so which clubs are leading the chase. I would love to see him at White Hart Lane. Thanks. George

Posted 09:42 11th December 2012

Richard Roberts (Everton fan) says...

Hi Guillem. As an Everton fan i'm a big admirer of Mikel Arteta. Why do you think he's never been given a chance by Spain? He and Xabi Alonso are a little bit like De Niro and Pacino for me and while Alonso was at Liverpool it was the opinion of many that Arteta was out performing his good friend Alonso. Fortunately for Alonso though, Liverpool were in the champions league then and Alonso was part of the team when they won it. Do you think though had Arteta been lucky enough to be playing in the champions league at the same time, would he maybe have been given the chance by Spain?

Posted 09:42 11th December 2012

Conor Smyth (Celtic fan) says...

Guillem, in researching your Guardiola book, and spending time with the man himself, di you get any indication of his preferred destination for his next job? He strikes me as a guy who keeps his cards close to his chest but i sense he would like a challenge, and while guiding City to a European Cup or revitalising a mediocre Milan team would represent one, do you feel his skills would best be suited to Arsenal? They seem to have a similar ethos and youth infrastructure to Barca, are London-based etc... and if the possibility was touted, Wenger might be reciprocal to the idea?? Thanks Conor

Posted 09:27 11th December 2012

Tim Bedwell (Everton fan) says...

Hi Guillem, Are you suprised at the impact that Michu and Pablo Hernandez have had for Swansea in the Premiership considering their limited impact in La Liga? Cheers Tim

Posted 08:42 11th December 2012

Marsel Konomi (Barcelona fan) says...

Hi Guillem, nice to read your blogs as always. I have a remark though. I don't think Cristiano would fit very well as number 9. A number nine has very narrow spaces and he is not as good as we expect from him (or other great number 9 such as Falcao) dealing with narrow spaces and being surrounded by all sides from opponents. He needs the space to exploit his speed and he is not very technical if he cannot use his pace for disorienting his opponents

Posted 08:24 11th December 2012

Khaled Ibrahim (Real Madrid fan) says...

Hey Guillem, Always look forward to reading your posts, and hopefully we'll find away to get revista shown in Kuwait. My question is in regards to the consequences of having Ronaldo in Real Madrid. Ronaldo is always going to be in the lineup because of his talent and the marketing and financial aspects to it, however i believe that only without the Ronaldo type player ( mandatory starting lineup super media attention arrogant portrayl etc...) will Real Madrid truly evolve and devlop as a team, allowing more focus to be on the team and other supremly talented players (Ozil, Benzema di Maria Higuain etc...) & also allow players to play roles that suit their style more hence getting thebest out of them and not have to shuffle around to see what will best suit Ronaldo. Do you think Real Madrid can only develop as a team and will other players finally play to their best abilities had the Ronaldo Situation not been, and would you happen to know whats up with his horrible dribbling? Thank You!

Posted 07:32 11th December 2012

Lee Pritchard (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, is there any truth in any interest from Manchester United in Athletic Bilbaos Oscar De Marcos? thanks

Posted 23:27 10th December 2012

Stephan Dsouza (Real Madrid fan) says...

Hi Guillem , This is a question all the way from India . I wanted to know about Dimaria . Is he considered to be an integral part of the Madrid Line Up cos i Find him to be very Subdued . Do you think that he can come close to The role Ronaldo plays if Ronaldo Leaves . Or what is his future with Bale Rumours floating . Thanks a lot

Posted 22:33 10th December 2012

Ryan Johnson (Liverpool fan) says...

Hi Guillem, Liverpool are in desperate need of a clinical finisher and attacking winger. Being only 4 points off the Champions League places can Liverpool still attract any stars such as Llorente or Cavani in January (Suarez may influence the move)? Having signed Nuri Sahin on loan will Rogers continue to bring in quality instead of quick fixes? I'm sure if they buy a world class player even on loan they will be competing for a Champions League spot.

Posted 20:13 10th December 2012

Samuel Mancha (Manchester United fan) says...

Messi is gud no doubt about that bt y favouring only barca why not madrid

Posted 19:23 10th December 2012

John White (Real Madrid fan) says...

Do you think that Barcelona's and Real Madrid's young starts Deulofeu and Jesé Rodriguez will live up to the hype?

Posted 18:48 10th December 2012

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