Messi Voted Just Argentina’s Third Best Athlete

Lionel Messi is probably the world’s best footballer, but Argentina doesn’t even believe he’s their top athlete.

Robert Whiteby Robert White

The world may love Lionel Messi, but that notion hasn’t really caught on back home in Argentina.

Argentine journalists voted boxer Sergio Martinez the country’s top athlete of 2012, the Olimpia de Oro award, while Messi came in at just third.

The Barcelona star, who has scored a record-breaking 90 goals this year and recently signed a massive extension with the Spanish powerhouse, lost out to Martinez and a taekwondo fighter.

Martinez receieved the recognition for defeating Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in the WBC title fight earlier this year while second placed Sebastian Crismanich collected Argentina’s lone gold medal at this year’s London Olympics.

It wasn’t all bad news for the 2011 winner; Messi did win the award for the best Argentine footballer playing overseas.

Although the 25-year-old is sure to find comfort in his FC Barcelona contract extension, which will pay him €16 million (US$21.2 million) through 2018, it is odd that Messi is only reluctantly embraced in his home country.

Some of that comes down to lacklustre performances while wearing his country’s colours (including scoring zero goals at the 2010 World Cup), although that too has improved lately; he’s racked up a heap of goals lately for Argentina and is now just a few goals behind Diego Maradona and fourth on the country’s all-time scoring list.

It could also have something to do with the fact that he left his country at just 13 to join Barcelona’s youth academy, however it doesn’t matter which way you look at it, if Messi takes out his fourth Fifa Ballon d'Or award (world footballer of the year) there is almost no scenario where he won’t be regarded as one of the few greatest to ever play the game.

For the moment he'll just have to remain content knowing that at least the rest of the world loves him.

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Follow Robert White on Twitter @RobertWhitebrrr.