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Biting back: Was it really that bad a year for Messi?

John Laverty

It has been a terrible year for Lionel Messi. An annus horribilis, you might say. For instance, with Real Madrid struggling in the league, you might have thought the little Argentine would have led Barcelona to a straightforward La Liga title.

But the crown stayed in Madrid, courtesy of Real's upstart neighbours Atlético.

Champions League? Well, the rejuvenated Atlético put paid to that dream too, in the quarter-finals.

Spanish Cup? Nope, Gareth Bale's staggering solo effort ensured that Los Blancos, and not their bitter rivals, would be boarding the victory bus.

World Cup? Well, after two stinkers in the competition, this was the one 'Leo' was meant to dominate.

He did score a couple of good goals early on and helped Argentina to the final... but then they met the best team in the tournament.

Add to that the persistent injuries, the legal action over his taxes and Ronaldo, not him, being officially labelled the best player in the world...

But wait a moment. So far in 2014, Messi has played 50 games for Barca - and scored 48 goals. He also hit the post 11 times, and provided 19 assists.

He ends the year having just become the all-time leading scorer in La Liga - and the all-time leading scorer in European competition.

And although many - including me - feel he didn't merit it, Messi was still voted the best player of the 2014 World Cup.

It's testimony to the astonishing standards he has set that Messi himself will look back over this year with a sense of inconsolable disappointment.

Yet, with the exception of 'CR7', he has just had the year that every footballer - and every would-be footballer - can only dream of.

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