The Greatest Ever?
There is no denying Lionel Messi is the best player on the planet but is he the best of all time? Naturally being Argentinean and playing for Barcelona the comparison between him and his boyhood-hero Diego Maradona was bound to come. But has Messi not only matched but overtaken "El Diego?"
The numbers are certainly in Leo's favour. Scoring 186 in his last 201 Barcelona appearances, Messi broke another record on Wednesday night as he hit five against Bayer Leverkusen, becoming the first player to score five goals in a single Champions League match, but what's most shocking is that no one was really that shocked? It just had to be Messi didn't it? And it will probably be Messi who breaks his own record by scoring six.
The statistics are scary. Messi has already won five league titles, one Copa del Rey, five Supercopa de Españas, two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups and three Champions League trophies (one of which Messi refused to celebrate as he did not participate in the final.) That is a total of 18 major club trophies and he is only 24. Many believe Messi has not yet reached his peak, a scary thought for his future opponents.
Speaking after the mid-week game Pep Guardiola spoke very highly of his star player "The circumstances don’t matter, he competes against himself. We only try to provide the conditions so that he can receive [the ball] as many times as possible where he feels comfortable [on the pitch]. It’s not easy to score five goals in a game. We are very fortunate to have a player like this, we can only enjoy him and this team," Guardiola then went on to compare Messi to Maradona and Pelé.
"He is the best. There's no-one else. He is a unique player because of his innate talent and also for his competitiveness. We will not see another player like Messi. It's not easy to score five goals, and one day he will score six." Pep went on to lay down a worrying gauntlet for the rest of the footballing world "The throne is his, only he will decide when to leave it."
Of course he has won it all on a club level but this is the big factor that makes people think twice before handing Leo the greatest player of all time crown. He has yet to produce his magic on an international level unlike Pelé and Maradona who both single-handily won their countries the biggest prize the game has to offer. Of course Messi has lived in Spain for almost half of his life sparking jealously in some Argentinean hearts which lead to outrageous claims that Lionel lacked the passion for his national team. That hurt the 24 year old, leaving him frustrated with his national form.
Messi loves his homeland and that is backed up by Leo rejecting the chance to play for the current World and European champions. Before his international debut for Argentina, Messi was offered the chance to gain Spanish citizenship and to be eligible for the Spanish national squad. The young player rejected the offer and was determined to help his country back to World Cup success. Currently Messi has only scored one goal in a World Cup championship and skeptics have used this as a thorn in the player's side.
True, Maradona did win two World Cups for Argentina but wait a minute. Maradona won his first World Cup in 1986, making him 26 at the time, two years older then Messi is. Coincidently the Brazil 2014 World Cup will be Messi's third and he will be 26 at the time. The perfect opportunity appears to be there and who is confident enough to bet against him?
For now Messi will continue amaze at a club level and previous greats will doubt his international ability. "When Messi has scored 1,283 goals like me, when he's won three World Cups, we'll talk about it." were the words of Pelé but in a couple of years time the Brazilian may be made to eat those words right off of the Argentine's boot.
I will leave you with the best advice that has been given and it comes from the mouth of Guardiola "Don’t write about him, don’t try to describe him. Watch him."