Messi has achieved what no player has achieved this season in scoring 73 goals in all competitions for Barcelona. He also ended up with the second highest number of assists in La Liga and finished the Champions league top scorer for the fourth season in a row. Despite this Barcelona finished second and were eliminated by Chelsea in the Champion league this season. Based on these stats it hard to argue that Messi is not the best player in the world although there is a section of the football world that would argue that Christiano Ronaldo is the world’s best. This is down to a number of factors. First of all that technically is Ronaldo stronger in some areas? For example strength, free kicks, long shots and aerial ability.
Ronaldo has also performed exceptionally well in two divisions. Both La Liga and the Premier League have seen Ronaldo dominate with glittering performances and stunning goals. He also has winner’s medals from both competitions. He also like Messi has won the Champion league. It’s harder to define what makes Messi better than Ronaldo other than there currently simply no other player who can do what Messi can. However Ronaldo has scored 40 goals in two consecutive and was named player of the season in La Liga. You could argue all day with no conclusive winner other than maybe it simply boils down to personal opinion. Unfortunately for these two in my opinion to be the greatest of all time it is far more complicated than just club form. There is international form as well as your performance in different club competitions. So in this respect Ronaldo is ahead of Messi having performed exceptionally in two major divisions.
Both players have yet to light up the international stage and have failed to add these honours to their impressive collections.
Does Messi deserve the title of the greatest player of all time? Or simply he is part of the greatest club side of all time? The Barcelona side of the last 4-5 years have simply been outstanding under Guardiola. Is it simply the system that allows Messi to be this great? Messi certainly profits from playing alongside the likes of Alves, Xavi and Iniesta. I will ask another question then would Messi be as good and score as many if he didn’t play alongside these players? It has to be asked as Messi has not performed to the same level for Argentina in what is a super talented Argentina side.
With the likes of Tevez, Aguero, Di Maria and Higuian there is no excuse or doubt that this Argentina side are capable of winning a major tournament. Messi didn’t perform as expected in South Africa at the last World Cup with Argentina falling to Germany at the quarter finals. I accept that one player cannot win a World Cup on his own but an individual can inspire a team to success by delivering magic performances of their own. There have been players who have lifted weaker club and national sides to achieve success at the highest level. Messi has plenty of tournaments ahead of him to rectify this. However there are others who have who for me stand before him in the line of consideration for the title of the greatest player of all time.
The two obvious names for the title of ‘the best of all time’ are Maradona and Pele. They both played at a time different to Messi. In fact the game was far more physical back then. In terms of a comparison between Messi and these two, Pele is the most similar in that although he went to play in the USA at the very end of his career he spent the majority at Santos. He was a one club man like Messi. The difference being Pele won three world cups! If we are talking about an assessment of performance over time Pele is miles ahead of Messi. Messi like Pele plays for an exceptionally talented national side and so Messi simply must win the world cup at least once to be considered alongside Pele in the international arena. Messi plays in a much tougher league competition than Pele did with Santos and also Messi has performed on the Champions league stage dominating the competition with Barcelona.
Messi has been forever likened to his boyhood hero Maradona and faced enormous pressure in the title of the ‘new Maradona’. Messi has become his own name emerging from the shadow of Maradona and is very much to be considered in his right. Let’s compare the two then. Maradona for one has achieved the highest honour of leading Argentina to a World cup in 1986. So Messi has yet to reach this height achieved by his idol. Maradona unlike Pele and Messi plied his trade in three separate leagues achieving variable levels of success.
Maradona won the championship in his native Argentina with Boca Juniors as well as success in Serie A with Napoli. He also had spells with Old Boys and Barcelona. He enjoyed small success at Barcelona but his achievements at Napoli were really something to take note of. He took and led a small side to Serie A glory on two occasions as well as a Uefa Cup. Is this something Messi could do? Could he leave the greatest club side of the modern generation and join a small side and help them achieve greatness. I don’t believe he will to this extent due to the money in football. Any possible transfer involving Lionel Messi would be astronomically high limiting the amount of sides he could join. So in that respect he may not be able to do what Maradona did by joining a small side like Napoli. However he could go and play for the top Italian sides and the top Premier league sides. He to be considered as the best of all time must be successful in another league. So Maradona leads Messi in his international achievements and also in the fact he led a weaker side to success.
In terms of a modern great to compare Messi with there is a few that stand out. Ronaldo and Zidane are both much closer to Messi in terms of age and in relation to the modern game. Starting with Zidane he achieved league and European success with Real Madrid. He also won the league with Juventus. So for me the fact that he has achieved success in two different leagues already makes a strong argument for Zidane to be considered ahead of Messi in terms of modern greatness. Couple this World Cup and European Championship success with France on the international stage Zidane record outshines Messi’s. Messi has scored a vast amount of goals and has achieved phenomenal success with Barcelona winning titles and the Champions League but needs to extend this into the international scene as well as another league.
Ronaldo has won two World Cups and has two Copa America’s to his name. He also is the highest scoring player in World cup history. So again on this basis you cannot compare the two with regards to their achievements at international level. Messi has to win with Argentina and not only win but dominate and lead the team in this pursuit. At club level Ronaldo enjoyed a successful spell at Real Madrid winning titles. He had a spell at Inter and PSV before that and then ended his career winning the championship in Brazil. In terms of success Messi has the edge here for me but Ronaldo did venture into four different leagues which enabled him to improve as a player. The combination of both his club and international form has him ahead of Messi though.
So to conclude, currently Messi cannot be deemed as the best player of all time. He has the title of best player in the world currently but has to leave the comfort of the Nou Camp and all the perks and protection he enjoys at Barcelona to become the greatest player ever. There is no doubt he has time on his side with possibly three more world cups and more Copa America’s to play in to deliver for Argentina . He has all the natural ability and talent to go and play and be successful in another of the world’s top leagues and become the best. So does he have the ambition and is he willing to risk failure in order to become the greatest player ever or will he remain at Barcelona?
So Messi its up to you......