Lionel Messi registered a record-breaking five goal haul last Wednesday, as a boisterous Barcelona swept aside a baffled Bayern Leverkusen outfit, to march promptly into the Champions League Quarter-Finals.
|Barcelona's old No.10|
Messi once again exhibited his undeniable quality and complete understanding of the modern game, bringing to the boil the debate that has simmered under the surface since he adopted Barcelona’s number 10 shirt from the majestic Ronaldinho in 2008.
That season saw a 21-year old Messi score 38 goals on his way to claiming La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies and the youngest top scorer in Champions League history picked up the UEFA Club Forward of the Year and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year awards, coming runner-up in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year.
Having received a staggering 46 accolades since then, netting another 153 times in just 157 appearances for Barcelona, Messi has proven to football spectators worldwide that he is a truly unique talent.
But, is Lionel Messi 'The Greatest Footballer Ever'?
Last May, Wayne Rooney was helpless to prevent the Argentine running rings around his teammates at Wembley, once again crushing his dreams of Champions League success. Despite such a brutal infliction of pain, Rooney found only pure pleasure in observing Messi’s latest masterclass, tweeting “Messi is a joke. For me the best ever.”
|Messi makes it look so easy|
When talking of all-time greatest footballers the same names inevitably arise such as Pele, Cruyff, Maradonna, De Stefano, Puskas, Beckenbauer, Platini, Eusabio, Francescoli and Best.
Having scored a mind-blowing 1,283 career goals in 1,363 appearances, Pele is considered by many as the number one footballer ever, when forced to choose. The so-called ‘King of Football’, who famously quipped, “I was born for soccer, just as Beethoven was born for music”, has his own views on whether Messi is eligible for the title of ‘Greatest Ever’.
In January Messi scooped the FIFA Ballon D’or award for the third successive year and Pele was present at the ceremony to admit, “I like Messi a lot, he’s a great player. Technically we’re practically at the same level.”
However, the Brazilian legend asserted, “When Messi’s scored 1,283 goals like me, when he’s won three World Cups, we’ll talk about it.” He further clarified, “He’s a great player for Barcelona, but when he plays for Argentina, he doesn’t have the same success.”
|Maradonna is an admirer|
The 71-year old global football icon displayed his sense of humour, claiming “People always ask me: ‘When is the new Pele going to be born?’ Never. My father and mother have closed the factory.”
Joking aside, Pele makes a valid point given that his 77 goals in 92 international appearances, including three World Cups and countless international records vastly outweigh Messi’s 22 scores in 67 games, boasting only one tournament victory in the 2008 Olympics.
Messi supporters would argue that at 24 years of age, assuming he remains injury-free, he will have every opportunity to meet and exceed the numerous achievements made by the Brazilian.
This statement holds great truth and it is impossible to construct arguments that successfully derail the assertion of Messi as the ‘Best Player of the Modern Era’.
As a generation we must acknowledge how privileged we are to witness such aristocratic displays of ingenuity on the football field.
We must also recall that our knowledge of Pele’s greatness is formed from vivid recollections passed down by those fortunate enough to have seen him perform or through rare clips of his wizardry, but primarily from reading of his accomplishments statistically.
|Still the greatest... for now...|
Granted the wealth of modern technology enables us to chronicle Messi’s career in a more comprehensive manner, but when the final whistle blows the bare bones of a legendary striker’s career is exposed through numbers.
Lionel Messi is an exceptionally gifted talent who has the world at his feet, but his sensational career record of 254 goals in 384 games still falls tremendously short of Pele’s, who can rest assured, temporarily, that he remains 'The Greatest Footballer Ever’.
Written by Dom Wallace
Written by Dom Wallace