For many years now, football supporters of a certain age have been pre-occupied with the notion of who really is the Greatest Of All Time.
Depending which generation you were born in, opinions will be split between Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldo Nazario and, more recently, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
All have their merits of course.
Pele - 3 World Cups, Cruyff - a visionary who changed the way football should be played, Zidane - peerless on a pitch full of Galacticos, Ronaldo - the purest striker ever, Cristiano - a machine.
And then we come to Leo.
The one player who, despite breaking almost every footballing record imaginable, still has to put up with the arguments that he’s ‘not as good as X because...’
If we are to truly judge who is the best football player in history, then the best metrics by which to decide the same are the levels of consistency displayed, the numbers (in terms of goals and assists) which indicate the importance of the player in each game/across his career and amount of trophies won.
By any measuring stick, Messi tops most charts already when taking all of those into account, even if, as of this moment, he’s yet to win a title with his beloved Argentina.
It could even be argued that yes, Maradona did win the World Cup for La Albiceleste virtually single-handedly back in 1986, and he was a star at Napoli, but they were brief interludes in a career which largely didn’t hit the heights on as sustained a basis as what Messi has managed.
Leo has been at the very top level of the game, week in and week out, for the best part of 17 years, and only Cristiano can really match him for consistency in that respect.
Argentina are up against it as they head into another Copa America final, this time against hosts, Brazil. Lest we forget that the tournament should’ve been held in Argentina but was moved because of Covid fears.
To this point, Messi has five assists and four goals in the 2020 edition of the tournament, needing one goal to equal Maradona’s total (goals and assists) at the 86 World Cup and Pele’s all-time Conmebol record of 77 goals.
Whether he scores or not in the final is largely an irrelevance if Argentina go on to win the title.
The stick he’s beaten most with to decry his legitimate claims of being the GOAT is that he’s never won that first major title with Argentina (we won’t talk about Gonzalo Higuain’s miss that, had he scored against Germany, would surely have given them the World Cup).
In any event, beating Neymar’s Brazil would silence every doubt and put every naysayer back in their box. The argument would then be moribund.
Everyone is behind Leo for what is likely to be the best chance he’ll ever have of winning a title with his country. Even some Brazilians want it too, and Neymar sure as hell hasn’t liked that!