Lionel Messi proves he's the best in the world again

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It was only a matter of time before Lionel Messi re-established his status as the world's best footballer after Cristiano Ronaldo secured the third Ballon d'Or award of his own illustrious career last month.

The Barcelona superstar scored the 23rd La Liga hat-trick of his career against Levante on Sunday - tying level with the Real Madrid goal machine - taking his tally of goals to 26 goals for the season and 37 in all competitions.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, endured another frustrating afternoon against Deportivo on Saturday. Carlo Ancelotti's side may have won the match 2-0, but their star man failed to score for the third consecutive match.

Ronaldo struggling

The Portugal captain also failed to score in the shock 4-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, and before that he missed two matches for earning a straight red card for violent conduct in Real Madrid's fortuitous 2-1 win over Cordoba - a match in which a below-par Ronaldo also failed to hit the back of the net.

Because of the extraordinary standards set by both Ronaldo and Messi over the past six years, three games without a goal for either player is considered a crisis in Spain.

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Possible explanations for Ronaldo's poor form

And debate and speculation about why Ronaldo is currently performing so poorly is rife. Has he taken his foot off the gas after his latest Ballon d'Or triumph? Is he declining as a footballer now he has reached the age of 30? Is he suffering because of his recent split with Irina Shayk?

All of these topics are seen as potential explanations - and it's entirely plausible that Ronaldo's disappointing recent performances are down to a combination of all three factors.

Messi has been the world's best for six years

While it's true that Ronaldo was the most in-form player in 2014 - he was not the best player in world football. There is a difference. That was always Messi, who has been the planet's most outstanding player since 2009. Four consecutive Ballon d'Or awards says it all.

The Argentina international, who showcased his class in last summer's World Cup finals before missing out on football's most prestigious trophy in agonising circumstances, missed a fair chunk of last season through injury but still ended the 2013-14 campaign with 41 goals to his name.

Messi back to his absolute best

And now he's back to his absolute best. Since November the 27-year-old, now widely regarded as an all-time great, has scored a remarkable 28 goals in 20 matches.

Furthermore, Messi also leads the assists charts in La Liga. The South American is not only the best player and goalscorer on the planet, but he's also the best passer. It's not just the amount of assists that he's contributed over the years, but the brilliance of so many of them.

Ronaldo, who would be the greatest player of his generation in any other era, will never fulfil his career goal of establishing his reputation as the best of all time.

Messi has left him in the shadows time and time again over the years - and the scary thing is, the peak years of his career are arguably just ahead of him.

Unlike Ronaldo's.

Are you Team Messi or Team Ronaldo? Tell us which player you think if the world's best - and why - in the comments below.

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La Liga
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid

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