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Monday 30 May 2016

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Lionel Messi beaten to sportsman of the year award by boxer and taekwondo fighter

By Simon Rice

Published 21/12/2012

Lionel Messi finished third in the poll
Lionel Messi finished third in the poll

Somewhat bizarrely, the world's love affair with Lionel Messi has never quite extended to his home country of Argentina.

While the Barcelona forward has dazzled on the European stage, passing milestone after milestone and picking up the last three Ballon d'Or awards, some in his own country have regarded the forward with suspicion.

The feeling that his own nation is not quite as partial to him as the rest of us seems to have been confirmed in a recent poll to determine Argentina's sportsman of the year.

In a year in which Messi has scored 90 goals - breaking a 40-year-old record set by Gerd Muller - you would think the little magician would have been a dead cert to win the prize voted for by Argentine journalists.

But not only did Messi not win - he finished third.

The sportsman of the year award went to WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, who won the title after defeating Mexico's Julio Cesar Chavez Jr on points in September.

In second was a taekwondo fighter - who won the nation's only gold medal of the London 2012 Olympics. Then came Messi.

The reasons behind Argentina's seeming reluctance to embrace the Barcelona forward are multiple.

A failure to replicate his Barcelona form for the national side has had something to do with it - although in recent years he has taken his tally for the national side to 31 - just three behind Diego Maradona and fourth in the all time rankings.

That man third in the all-time list of top scorers for Argentina has something to do with it. Even the notion that Messi could upstage national hero Maradona as the greatest player of all time (although never claimed by the player himself) hasn't helped the situation.

There is also a feeling that having decamped his homeland at just 13 to join Barcelona's youth ranks, his affinity with the Argentinean people is not like that enjoyed by former heroes such as Daniel Alberto Passarella or Gabriel Omar Batistuta.

January will see the awarding of the Fifa Ballon d'Or award, at which Messi is expected to become the first player to receive the accolade four years in a row. At least he will be able to celebrate then.

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