Early Doors

The Ballon d’Or? Suits you sir

Early Doors

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There could be no other decision. An entirely suspenseless ceremony saw the correct man crowned the world's greatest footballer in Zurich last night as Lionel Messi was deemed worthy of the honour for a record fourth time at the FIFA Ballon d'Or ceremony.

No one, not even Cristiano Ronaldo's most fanatic devotee, would argue against Messi being the undisputed heavyweight of world football now - even if the Argentine did turn up to the ceremony in a jacket that was reminiscent of one of Peter Jackson's motion-capture suits. Perhaps we will be able to add 'The Hobbit, Part Two' to his ever-lengthening list of achievements.

Certainly there was an Oscars feel to the moment when Messi's name was read out by former winner Fabio Cannavaro. With three cameras trained on Messi, Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid forward had to suppress a scowl as his great rival beat him to football's greatest individual prize once again.

Hollywood would have been disappointed by his acceptance speech, though, without a single mention of his agent, Jesus or even the Church of Scientology. "To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable," said a typically humble Messi. "The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words. I would like to recognise my other colleagues from Barcelona. Andres, it has been great to train and play alongside you.

"I would also like to recognise all of my friends in the Argentina national team, everyone that has worked with me, coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you."

As Messi strode up to the stage to take the golden ball in his hands for the fourth time in four years - reaching a tally that Marco van Basten, Michel Platini and even another Barcelona great, Johan Cruyff, were unable to match - Early Doors could hear the faint, yet distinctly tiresome rumble of the 'Is Messi the greatest of all time?' debate being renewed once more.

To discuss this now is pointless. Not because it is impossible to compare players in different eras, or different positions, but because in five years it won't even be a debate. There will be no wriggle-room for alternative arguments.

If he carries on at his current, barely believable scoring rate then by the time he is 30 Messi will have scored 770 career goals. He will have added a few more La Liga titles and probably reached five Champions Leagues. When his career has finished, and if he stays injury free for long periods, there is surely an outside chance, however small, that he will reach 1,000 goals.

And in proper games too - not counting friendlies, exhibition games, random matches across five continents and kick-a-bouts with his kids in the back garden, as Brazilian striker Romario seemed to do when reaching his rather dubious four-figure tally in 2007. Instead Messi will be firmly in Pele territory, and possibly beyond.

But that is for the future. At present it is enough to merely savour his genius - and after scoring 91 goals last year the Ballon d'Or for 2012 surely found its right home. It left ED wondering: if Messi wins it a fifth time, does he get to keep it?

It would be fitting if so, because this is a player who has dominated the football world for years. Even when faced with an eternal rival of the quality of Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi has looked on another plane to everyone else entirely.

It's actually getting quite difficult to write about Messi now, and as its dear readers will know, ED struggles at the best of times. To be honest, what can you say about Messi that hasn't been said a million times before?

Just prior to Christmas, ED was raiding Waterstones for some last-minute presents and stumbled across a little hardback book near the counter called 'Superlatives'.

ED didn't take a peek inside - by this point it had located a free reading chair and a copy of '50 Shades of Grey' - but presumably if there was a page entitled 'Messi' it would have been left blank. After all, aren't we are always told we have exhausted ways in which to describe this kid? As Pep Guardiola once said: "Put in the superlatives yourselves, I'm running out."

On a night when he was named football's greatest once again, even Messi's sartorial choice turned out to be inspired.

At first glance his polka dot jacket and bow-tie looked to be the most ill-advised red carpet ensemble since Lady Gaga sprinted through a butcher's warehouse covered in superglue. Yet by the end of FIFA's ceremony of back-slapping he cut a rather dashing figure.

Being able to get away with a jacket like that was testament to the blinding brilliance of his talent. And remarkably it shows no sign of ending. Messi is just cut from a different cloth.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Yes, I would like to come back to coaching. I have been out for a year and it’s what I would like but there is no reason to give any more specific details. I don’t have a team to go to but I would like to go back to coaching. I have taken a decision to return but beyond that no decision has been taken.” - Hardly sensational, but any public utterance from Pep Guardiola carries more weight than Fatty Foulkes.

DOMESTIC VIEW: Lest we forget, there was an FA Cup third-round tie taking place last night with Everton veritably romping to a 5-1 win away at Cheltenham. Read a full report here.

COMING UP: It's the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final between Bradford City and Aston Villa at Valley Parade, with kick-off at 7.45pm. Before we kick off our live commentary, though, we have Paul Parker 's blog dropping at lunch and James Horncastle brings us an update from Serie A in the evening.

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