Argentina title all that's missing for Messi

ZURICH - After being voted World Player of the Year for the second year in a row, all that is missing to complete Lionel Messi's career is a senior international trophy with Argentina.

The decision to crown Messi ahead of his Spanish Barcelona team mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta, following a year of European dominance, is a timely reminder of the riches that South America has given the game.

Many felt that Messi's failure to score at last year's World Cup or help Argentina to go beyond the quarter-finals would prevent him from winning the Player of the Year award again.

But the voters - international coaches, team captains and selected journalists - appeared to be swayed by the reasoning that Messi's disappointing tournament in South Africa was the result of his team's failings rather than his own.

Diego Maradona's team failed to provide him with the service he needed to thrive. He was forced to drop back, look for the ball and set up his team mates when, in truth, it should have been Argentina's midfield which was providing service for Messi.

There have been no such problems at Barcelona, where Messi has continued to mesmerise the opposition and the Nou Camp supporters.

His four-goal Champions League performance against Arsenal last April was arguably the highlight of a year in which Messi's talent has reached new heights.

At his best, he can leave several bemused opponents in his wake and the deft, unpredictable finishes he applies to his work only add to the overall effect.

Former Barcelona forward Hristo Stoichkov said there appeared to be only one way to stop a player known as the Atomic Flea.

"Once they said they can only stop me with a pistol but today you need a machine gun to stop him," said the Bulgarian.

Messi has won the Olympic gold medal with Argentina's under-23 team but a win at the Copa America this year, which his country will host, would be his first with the senior national team.

His ultimate goal must be to help Argentina win a third World Cup title in 2014 - on the soil of their arch-enemies Brazil. It would transform his status in much the same way as Argentina's World Cup 1986 win did for Diego Maradona.