Lionel Messi delivers for Argentina, at last

VICENTE PANETTA Associated Press Published:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Lionel Messi's season has ended with Argentina's national team. And it's been quite a run.

Messi's transformation in 2012 was remarkable, as the man who once couldn't score for his country equaled Gabriel Batistuta's 1998 record of 12 goals in a year. Messi needed only nine games, while Batistuta had 12.

Messi has always scored for Barcelona, but he began to deliver for Argentina only this year. Between March 2009 and October 2011, he failed to find the net in 16 matches -- seven World Cup qualifiers, five at the World Cup, and four in the Copa America, the continental championship.

Messi has clicked with Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, who took over 15 months ago after Sergio Batista was fired following the team's quarterfinal exit at the Copa America.