5 reasons why Lionel Messi will win fifth Ballon d'Or in 2015

Barcelona never stops. We may only be in September and the new season still in its infancy, but that doesn't stop us debating the who we think deserves to be named the world's greatest footballer.

The Ballon d'Or voting takes place in November and four-time winner Lionel Messi must surely be the favourite to take the award he last won back in 2012. While many youngsters are already being tipped as 'The Next Messi", it is clear La Pulga is a unique talent.

Here we take a look at five reasons why the Argentine should be crowned for an unprecedented fifth time in January.

1. Moments of inspiration

Goalscoring and assist stats don't always tell the whole story when it comes to analysing football. To look at the sport merely in terms of numbers would take away some of the romance that leads us to fall in love with the game in the first place.

What they can do however is offer a quick glimpse into the consistency of a player, and the first thing that catches the eye when reading Lionel Messi's statistics are the extraordianry goals to games ratios.

In the 2014-2015 season, the Argentine scored an astonishing 58 goals in 57 appearances for his club. To maintain that scoring ratio at the very highest level of the game is a testament to the outrageous goalscoring qualities Messi possesses.

One area the numbers don't tell the whole story, however, is the importance of some of these goals. Yes there are the hat-tricks and braces against teams with leaky defences who tend to occupy the lower positions of the La Liga table that help stack up the goalscoring tallies, but there also the match-winning goals against the cream of Europe that have helped bring numerous trophies to Barcelona this year.

A few examples of these feats in 2015 so far include destroying Bayern Munich with two late goals in a Champions League semi-final to send the Camp Nou into ecstasy. Little more than a fortnight later and Atletico Madrid were on the receiving end as Messi stepped up again with the winning goal that secured a 23rd La Liga title for the Catalans.

Shortly after came two goals in the Copa Del Rey final - the first of which being a dazzling solo effort that will bring repeat viewings for years to come. More recently there were the two expertly executed free kicks in the 5-4 victory over Sevilla in which Barcelona won the UEFA Super Cup.

Messi has produced these goalscoring numbers season after season but this year he has produced moments of such importance on the big occasions that make him almost impossible to ignore when it comes to the voting for the next recipient of the Ballon D'Or.

2. Overall influence

One aspect of his game which separates Messi from the rest of the world's great talents is the overall influence he brings to a team. Given his bitter history with the club, praise from Jose Mourinho for anyone associated with Barcelona is a rare thing indeed. But the ex-Real Madrid coach accurately summed the talents of Messi up well when he implied the Argentine would immediately elevate any team he played for to an entirely new level.

Provider of 28 assists last season, Messi has this year matured into a footballer who seemingly doesn't need to rely on his explosiveness or pace quite as regularly in order to have a positive effect on a match.

He can of course still accelerate past an opposing player and produce moments of wizardry. What has perhaps been more impressive this year though has been the improvement in his playmaking abilities, regularly dropping deeper into midfield to dictate games in a more composed manner for the team.

The La Masia graduate has himself alluded to the possibility of dropping into a midfield position in the latter part of his career. The biggest compliment we can probably pay to Messi on this point is that he will still in all likelihood be just as influential in an entirely new position. There aren't too many players in the history of the game we could say that about.

3. Trophy haul

As has been the case in recent years, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were once again the main frontrunners for the Balon d'Or in 2014. Both had produced extraordinary individual feats in terms of goalscoring and all-round influence on their respective teams. There can only be one winner though of course and the Portuguese star retained the award he won in 2013.

With little separating the two stars in terms of talent, voters had a tough choice to make. The feeling was that Ronaldo had gotten the edge over Messi as he could back up his individual achievements with a major trophy at club level through winning the Champions League and Copa Del Rey with Real Madrid. In comparison, Messi and Barcelona endured a rare barren year in terms of trophies.

Whether winning things as a team should affect how an individual contest is judged is open to debate. However, if it is an area in which voters take into consideration, it is certainly not an obstacle that can stop Messi being crowned this year. 2015 has been a glorious year for Barcelona as they have reigned victorious in La Liga, the Copa Del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup and, of course, the biggest of all club competitions - the Champions League.

If there are any criticisms to be had of Messi they may arrive when assessing his international achievements. As they did in 2014 some will point to the fact that he is still to inspire his country to a major tournament victory as his idol Diego Maradona did. As against Germany in the World Cup last year, Messi and Argentina fell at the final hurdle once again as they were defeated on penalties by hosts Chile in the Copa America.

Given the influence the Rosario native has had on Barcelona winning four major trophies this year, though, it would be extremely harsh to use that as a stick to beat him with. 

4. Rivals great, but not quite great enough

There haven't been too many players to produce performances even close to those of Messi so far this year. In fact among his closest competitors are two of the Argentine’s team-mates, namely his Barcelona strike partners Luis Suarez and Neymar. All three were major contributors as Barcelona powered their way to the treble last season.

Suarez, due to his ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, didn't appear for the club until October 2014. After a relatively slow start by his high standards, the Uruguayan soon displayed the form he displayed at Liverpool. With his tireless running in the channels, superb technical ability and natural finishing Suarez ended the season with 25 goals including a strike in the champions League final.

The third of Barcelona’s three amigos, Neymar really stepped up to the mark after an inconsistent first season in Catalunya. The 23-year-old Brazilian captain worked superbly with Messi and Suarez in a fluid front three, finishing the season with an outstanding thirty-nine goals. The ex-Santos man also sealed Barca's Champion's League with the third goal in a 3-1 win over Juventus.

Then of course there is Messi's ever-present rival for the title of the world's no.1, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid superstar completed another outstanding season in which he took his goalscoring tally to an incredible 61 goals in just 54 appearances. The 30-year-old Portuguese proved the talisman for his club side yet again.

However, as we have already alluded to, the awarding for the Ballon D'or is about more than just goals. Any criticism of Ronaldo would be harsh, but one area where he has undoubtedly been inferior to Messi this year has been in overall influence on his team.

Ronaldo is seemingly evolving into more of an orthodox striker which in turn is seeing him slightly less involved in the game. Of course, he is still a phenomenal player and the goalscoring abilities he brings to the side are irreplaceable. Ronaldo is also more effective in the air than Messi yet he doesn't possess the same game intelligence and passing ability that Messi carries.

Ronaldo, Suarez and Neymar would all be very worthy winners of the prestigious award in any other year - all three have been outstanding. They just happen to be unfortunate that this is a year in which Messi has truly outshone everyone else.

5. Proving the doubters wrong

It may seem ridiculous now, but it wasn't too long ago there were a substantial number of pundits, journalists and spectators wondering whether we had seen the best of Messi.

Following a World Cup Final against Germany in which Messi failed to inspire Argentina to a first World Cup since 1986 there were those that harboured doubts over Messi's hunger for the game and questions were raised over whether he could rouse himself to produce the match-winning displays of old on such a consistent basis as he had in the past.

It is true that at the World Cup and the first half of last season Messi sometimes looked exhausted and his body language suggested he was slightly disinterested. This shouldn't be surprising given the Argentine, who has been at Barcelona since the age of 13, has played over 600 professional games at the age of 28-year-old. Fatigue is bound to set in at some point.

The Argentine's extraordinary consistency means that whenever he does fall below his exceedingly high standards for any amount of time, there will be those ready to question him. There were even rumours linking Messi away from Barcelona following a supposed fall-out with Camp Nou boss Luis Enrique. Add to this the well-publicised tax fraud charges he is facing and not all seemed right in Messi's world.

Ever since the turn of the year, however, Messi has had the look of a man with a renewed hunger and if anything has looked a better player than ever. This from a man many believe to already have been the greatest to ever play the game.

It is as if Messi has looked at himself and seen where he can make improvements to not only get back to his best but take his talents to another level. We are now witnessing a more mature Messi in terms of passing and positioning, yet one that still possesses the same dazzling dribbling ability that brings joy to all those that have the privilege to watch him.

Should Lionel Messi win his fifth Ballon d'Or in 2015? Of course, the contest in not even close!

By Aaron Attwood, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter @ajattwood