The Telegraph
Thursday , January 10 , 2013
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Messi: Would swap a Ballon d’Or for Cup

London: Lionel Messi admits winning the World Cup with Argentina is the only thing missing in his glorious career.

Barcelona’s superstar striker made history this week after claiming an unprecedented fourth Ballon D’Or on the trot. Lifting the World Cup will surely end the debate as to whether he is rightly hailed as the greatest player in football history.

Messi, 25, already has his rightful place in the pantheon of the game’s greats but readily concedes he would swap any of his Ballon D’Or trophies for the ultimate prize in football — a World Cup winner’s medal.

Messi said: “Winning the World Cup is what is missing. The truth is, yes, I would swap a Ballon D’Or for the World Cup, I’ve always felt like that. Nothing compares with being world champion. “I want to achieve things with Barcelona and with my country, which I’ve always said is my dream,” Messi told a British tabloid.

Even though he only won the Copa Del Rey with Barca last season, Messi cast a giant shadow over all of his rivals with his 91 goals for club and country in 2012.

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo was second in Fifa’s vote and Messi’s Barca teammate Andres Iniesta, who led Spain to victory in Euro 2012, came third.

Messi set a stonking La Liga record with 50 goals and became the first player to score five in a single Champions League match in the 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.

He also set a record for most strikes in a Champions League season with 14 — and was top marksman in Uefa’s elite competition for an unprecedented fourth successive year.

The Argentina wizard said: “It makes me so happy that many important people talk well of me. Each year my objective is to grow, not to stay with what I have. As for what I don’t know, I want to try and learn and get better.”

With 18 months left before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, expectations back in his homeland are huge that Messi will finally deliver on the biggest stage. Amazingly, for all the plaudits he receives in Europe, Messi has had to withstand fierce criticism back home in Argentina.

Things reached an all-time low when Argentina flopped in the Copa America on home soil 18 months ago after losing to Uruguay on penalties in the quarter-finals. Then Messi called for unity and since then there has been a remarkable transformation in Argentina’s fortunes.

They did not lose a game in 2012 and currently sit top of their group in the South American qualifiers.

The Barca ace added: “Last year I was welcomed back home in a spectacular way because the people are now behind the national team. It had been a long time that this chemistry had been lost and I am happy we finished the year so well.”

Meanwhile, Messi has sent a signed shirt to Gerd Mueller after the Argentina forward broke the former Germany striker’s record for the number of goals scored in a calendar year in 2012.

“For Gerd Mueller, my respect and admiration, a hug,” Messi wrote on the shirt, which had his name and number 10 on the back.