Lionel Andres Messi is the best footballer in the world today and there is not a slightest of doubt about it. Think about it: how often does football have a player like him, a lad who's universally regarded as an all-time great at only 24 years of age and while he’s still playing? To the best of my knowledge, none. It's a rarity and lucky for us to be honest, to be seeing him playing. I am sure many of us will tell our kids and grandkids about this with pride.

If you don't think so, then either you're a Real Madrid or Manchester United supporter or Pele.

It amuses me to see Messi being compared with the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney and Neymar. I understand the first two comparisons however what I fail to understand is what made Pele say “Now everyone is talking about Messi, he is a star. But for Messi to be the best ever, he must first become better than Neymar.” Ok, I accept Neymar is good and is one of the hottest prospects in the world football, nothing against him, I think he’s an incredible player. But with everything that Messi does on the pitch, all the records he has broken, all the titles he’s helped Barcelona win; all at the age of 24, Messi is certainly the best player in the world. How can Pelé not see all that is beyond me. It seems to me that Pele doesn’t watch La Liga, UEFA Champions League or the sports segment on the news. Perhaps the news in Brazil doesn’t cover Messi as much as Neymar.

Pele’s obsession with Messi goes back many years now, maybe ever since he made his debut for Barcelona. There have been numerous times when Pele has made off-putting comments about Messi. There was a time when Pele was asked if he thinks Messi will end up being the greatest of all time. Pele said "When Messi's scored 1,283 goals like me, when he's won three World Cups, we'll talk about it."

In another press conference Pele Said “Argentina needs to decide who the best player is from their own country (Maradona or Messi) before there can be a debate of who is the greatest ever.” 

Pele has always been critical of Messi however Messi has not and will not respond to his statements. It’s not in him to do that, but most importantly, Messi is just letting his play do all the talking. And not just to silence Pele; to silence all his critics.

Everyone knows that Lionel Andres Messi is the best player on the planet and could end up becoming the greatest of all time and I think Pele knows that just as well. Then why would he make such callous comments on a young man who is fit to be his grandson? Couldn’t he be happy with the success this young lad has achieved in such a short time? I guess not. Maybe because first, he’s an Argentinean and second, probably because It just hurts him so much that someone has come along that has captivated the sports world—not just the football world—and is respected, praised and beloved by most.

There is an unending debate doing rounds as to who is the best player in the history of football- Pele or Maradona? Now the debate has a third name to it i.e. Lionel Andres Messi, who has often been compared by football lovers to none other than Pele’s greatest rival Diego Maradona, who terms Messi as the best players in the world and says that he believes that Messi will surpass them both. Maradona has even gone to label Messi as his successor.

However Messi is a lot different from Maradona in a lot of ways. First, Maradona was not liked by some and second, many did not respect him as well mainly because of “Hand of God” and so forth on the pitch, drug use and big mouth off the pitch.

A lot of people might not like Messi, mainly because not everyone is a fan of Barcelona and Argentina, but unlike Maradona, Messi is universally respected. That’s because he’s one of the coolest players around, never has an issue with anyone, never dives, neither does he argue with the referees in a match and off the pitch he comes as clean as a greatest footballer should come, with zero controversy revolving around him.

Except from Pele almost everyone accepts the fact that Messi is the best player in the world and here is what they have said about Messi.

“They are the best team I’ve seen and Lionel Messi the best player. I think he got three nutmegs in the first-half. On my PlayStation I can make him do what I want but he’s even better in real life. The speed he moves his legs, in fact his whole body, is amazing.”- Wayne Rooney.

“Messi does incredible things; his stats make you cover your eyes. He cannot be compared to anyone. We are delighted.”  David Villa.

“He’s a unique player and he deserves it, because he can do things of almost imperceptible excellence and is a gem to watch.”- Frank Rijkaard.

“He deserves ten out of ten for doing what he does. He is a sensation, but still he can improve. He must know when to move the ball on quickly and when to try the impossible mission. When he learns this, he won’t win a single Golden Ball, but an entire collection.”- Johan Cruyff.

 “Nobody was so wonderful at 19 years, neither Pele nor Maradona.”- Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

“He’s like a PlayStation”- Arsene Wenger. 

“It is as if someone commands him from the stands, like a video game. I have never seen a human run with the ball at that speed. I have not seen Maradona so I cannot compare, but Messi is simply unbeatable.”- Mikel Arteta.

“The best way to stop Messi is when you play with 11 men and then you can double mark him, one player to stay on him and the other to help out. If it is 11 against 10 then you have almost no chance of stopping him.”- Jose Mourinho.

In my opinion these statements are much more unbiased than the ones Pele has made so far and is an indication of the magnitude of Messi’s immense popularity and acceptance of his greatness. This should serve as a lesson to Pele who seems to have taken upon himself to criticize Messi at every point. Why does he do it? The reasons are best known to him, some have said that Pele is jealous of Messi and I think that might just be right or there could be a possibility that Pele wants Messi to work harder to remain at the top however he’s not able to put across his words in a positive manner, which however is highly unlikely.

But what I strongly feel is that Pele is covetous of Messi’s popularity to a certain extent; not of Messi’s game. Messi has been and is more embraced by the media and fans around the world more than Pel was and as I said before Messi being an Argentinean also does not help Messi here. Whatever may the reason be, I’m sad to see that Pele continues to bicker and lowers himself to making obviously dumb comments. Whatever he’s trying to prove, one thing is clear, he is making a fool out of himself by doing it every now and then while Messi just gives him ignore of a lifetime and proves him wrong by what he does on the pitch, which I hope he continues to do so for a long time to come.

Pele makes some sense when he says that Messi needs to perform big with the Argentine national team and needs to win 3 world cups, however in my opinion Messi does not have to win 3 world cups but winning one would suffice to cement his position at the top in world football’s history. 

Pele might have won 3 world cups and might have score 1283 career goals (half of which is extremely questionable though) but he could learn a thing or two from Messi, first, to be humble and second, to stay classy, both qualities surely missing in Pele. I have only one piece of advice for Pele “Please stop criticizing Messi; instead, love him for what he does and who he is, like the rest of us.”