Friday 25 November 2016, 10:18

Magical Messi makes history

Lionel Messi knows very well what it means to be among the ten contenders for the 2016 FIFA Puskás Award. This is the fifth time that he has been shortlisted for the goal-of-the-year accolade since it came into being in 2009.

The Argentinian ace owes his latest nomination to the delightful free-kick he converted against hosts USA in the semi-final of the Copa America Centenario, a match that ended in a comprehensive 4-0 win for La Albiceleste.

With the score at 1-0, Argentina were awarded a free-kick five yards outside the US box, slightly to the left of the D. The Albiceleste captain stepped up to take it, with most people expecting him to try and place the ball at the near post, to the right of Stars and Stripes keeper Brad Guzan, who was stationed a mere two metres from the far post.

La Pulga chose the tougher option, however, curling a fizzing left-foot shot over the five-man US wall and the unsuspecting Guzan and right into the top far-hand corner. “That’s where I was aiming for,” said the No10. “Sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t. I guessed he’d take a step to the centre. He did and the ball just went over him.”

Messi’s stunning strike was also a record-breaking one, as it took him past Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina's leading all-time scorer with 57 goals. One of many to voice his appreciation of Messi’s work of art, Batigol also formed part of the expert panel that selected it as one of the ten candidates for the 2016 FIFA Puskás Award.

As strange as it may seem, this award is one of the few individual honours to have evaded Messi’s grasp. He placed third in the 2011 competition, behind strikes by Neymar and Wayne Rooney respectively, and second in 2015, when Wendell Lira took the trophy.

The destination of this year’s award lies in your hands. All you have to do is watch Messi’s goals and those of the other contenders, and vote for your favourite. The deadline for the first round of voting ends on 2 December, with the top three goals then going forward to a second and final round of voting.

The winner will be revealed at The Best FIFA Awards ceremony on 9 January 2017.

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