In a glamorous event held at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on December 2, Lionel Messi lifted a world-record sixth Ballon d'Or, ahead of rivals Virgil Van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo with 686 votes. While the world applauded the little Argentine magician's achievement in admiration, criticism inevitably poured in on whether he was deserving enough. Having bagged the Best FIFA Men's Player award in September, Messi was already dubbed to be favourite for the iconic golden ball award. However, in contention were Liverpool's Van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Salah who, by the virtue of a handsome Champions League victory, were equally deserving of the nomination. For Messi, it was a sublime year where he scored 46 goals and provided 17 assists in all competitions for club and country, that too in just 54 appearances. With a win percentage of 68.5 per cent, Messi led Barcelona to top of the league table, winning his 10th La Liga trophy. In the process, he finished as the top scorer for the league, winning his 6th Pichichi Trophy — equalling Telmo Zarra's record since 1953. His instrumental scoring prowess — constant since a decade — earned him a record-sixth European Golden Shoe, his third consecutively. Between these glaring achievements remain buried the sheer masterclass of performances that cooked up victories in near-impossible situations when his team needed him the most. Assessment of a player's performance is bolstered by the part it played in the team and as it stands, Messi has become synonymous with Barcelona to the extent that when he is not in the team sheet, a visible dip in team performance prevails. It is as if Messi single-handedly reproduces the magic that emanated from the all-conquering Barcelona of 2009. Week after week, we are in awe of the number 10's stellar display of football. Messi has spoiled us by setting the standard so high that without him Barcelona and football, in general, look ordinary. A record-sixth Ballon d'Or not only justifies his last year performance but, collectively, gives an apt insight into the legend that dribbles amongst us and reminds us of how lucky we are to have him, and a rivalry like Messi–Ronaldo who share an astonishing 11 Ballon d'Ors between them.