1. Lionel Messi
Messi is the top scorer in La Liga history, for the Argentine national team and for Barcelona. He scored 91 goals in a calendar year in 2012. He’s won a joint-record five Ballons d’Or. To date, he has won no fewer than 20 major club trophies. This incredible haul is testament to Messi’s greatness, but at the same time an entirely unsatisfactory method of trying to sum up his enormity.
He has taken goalscoring to new levels, making a mockery of the old ‘one-in-two’ yardstick of judging whether a striker is prolific. But, again, this isn’t enough. His jaw-dropping goals tally pales in comparison to the beauty with which he scores them, to the mesmerizing ability he displays with unrelenting consistency, and to the breathtaking way he controls games. Just watch him: then try to say there’s been someone better.
Career highlight: Days after criticism of his aerial game, Messi steered a looping header over Edwin van der Sar that sealed Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League Final.