Lionel Messi's legend continues to grow.
On Monday, the clever-footed Argentine became the first-ever player to win the FIFA Player of the Year award three-straight years. It was yet another major accomplishment for Messi, who has shown few signs of slowing down.
The Barcelona forward beat out teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real Madrid-rival Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or award for 2011. One of the best goal-scorers of his generation, Messi has also been a solid face of the game. He has managed to avoid controversy, and has been regarded as a good teammate and a gentleman of the sport.
Messi, 24, scored 55 goals for Barcelona in 2011 and was the clear-cut vote getter. In votes cast by select reporters, national-team coaches, and captains, Messi received 48 percent, while Ronaldo finished second with 22 percent and Xavi garned nine percent, to finish third for the third-straight year.
The question that now hovers over Messi is where he stands among the legends of the sport. Messi has achieved stellar results with Barcelona, but has not produced great results for Argentina, a country that hasn't won a World Cup since 1986.
Argentina had a miserable finish in Copa America 2011. Though Messi had some strong performances, Argentina's early exit on their home turf left a sour taste in many fans' mouths. Some have questioned his commitment to his country, amid his grand success with Barcelona.
In 2014, the World Cup will be hosted by neighboring-nation Brazil. Messi will still turn 27 around that time, and should have exceptional talent around him with players like Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, and Javier Pastore likely on the roster. Though main-rival Brazil will likely be the favorite, Argentina is due for a deep run in the historic tournament.
Should Messi help lead Argentina to the World Cup title, it could mean, in manycritics' eyes, that he would have surpassed the legacy of Diego Maradona. Unlike Messi, Maradona's main highlights were for his country, not his clubs.
Messi's legacy with Barcelona is firmly in tact. He has been as dominant a forward as any of his predecessors. Surrounded by elite playmakers Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the Barcelona squad appears tailor-made for Messi's talents.
It will be interesting to see how, and if, Argentina can find the right players to showcase Messi in 2014.
In the mean time, a fourth-straight Ballon d'Or is not out of the question for Messi.