Lionel Messi – the greatest player the world has ever seen?

The question is simple, the answer isn’t so.

The question is simple, the answer isn’t so. He has a show reel of goals like no other and has lit up the world of football for the past few years, but has Messi outshone the likes of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff and Zidane? 

On the back of show-stopping performances, including five goals against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, whilst also surpassing the 50 goal mark this season, Lionel Messi has left a question on the lips of football fans across the globe. Is he the greatest footballer of all time?

He has a lot that goes in his favour. At the tender age of 24, little Leo has years ahead of him in the game and has achieved so much in his career already. With over 200 goals to his name for Barcelona, 5 league titles, 3 Champions League winners medals and 2 Ballon D’ors’ in the trophy cabinet, Messi hasn’t done too badly since his debut back in 2004.

The greatest footballer of all time?

However, he has the likes of Pele’s 1,152 goals, Maradona’s 86’ World Cup winners medal, Cruyff’s three Ballon D’ors’, and Zidane’s World Cup, La Liga and Serie A triumphs, along with his coveted Ballon D’or to compete with. Quite a list of footballers and achievements. 

There is also the age-old argument against Messi that he has never quite performed to his potential in international competition. He has never got past the quarter-final stage of a World Cup, whilst all but one of the above have lifted the trophy.

Pele won the World Cup whilst in his teenage years at 17, scoring two goals in the final against Sweden. He once again basked in World Cup glory in 1970, winning the final against Italy, while also picking up the player of the tournament award. 

Diego Maradona famously single handedly guided his beloved Argentina to the World Cup in 1986. In a distinctly average side, Maradona took it upon himself to win the trophy, and did so; putting on a show to the footballing world it will never forget. 

Johan Cruyff must wonder how he and his total football pioneers never won the Jules Rimet trophy. Cruising to the 1974 final, Holland played some of the best football ever seen, but were stifled by the rigid and effective set up of West Germany. But, just as Pele did in 1970, Cruyff was also rewarded for his performances with the player of the tournament award. 

Most recently, Zinedine Zidane lifted the famous trophy in 1998, accompanied by winning the European Championships in 2000. He also lost so narrowly in the 2006 final to Italy, inspiring his French comrades to victories over Spain, Brazil and Portugal in the knockout stages. By scoring his penalty in the final, Zizu became only the fourth footballer in history to score in two different world cup finals. 

These legendary players have quite an illustrious trophy cabinet between them from their international successes, whereas Lionel Messi has little to show on this front. 

Yet, the likes of Pele didn’t compete at the top level domestically, and although he has an astounding goal scoring record, it must be noted that these came in both the Brazilian and American leagues. Lionel Messi has competed year in year out in the Champions League, arguably the world’s most demanding and competitive competition, and has also won this title three times already. Along with this, he has performed at the highest level of La Liga, one of the best leagues in the world that showcases some of the most technically gifted and talented footballers around. 

Diego Maradona on the other hand was quite honestly a liability at the best of times. With his very public problem with drugs and irrational behaviour on the football pitch, Maradona was a completely different animal to Lionel Messi. The image of cool, calm and sophistication on the field, Messi is far more dependable and has a composed head on his shoulders. 

It has also been long discussed the role that players like Xavi and Iniesta play in Messi’s success. Two of the best midfielders around at the moment, they can split defences with through balls and dismantle teams at will, providing assist upon assist for Messi to put away. With different players behind him, would Messi be the same player he is? Yes.

He is like no player we will ever see again. With talent and confidence in abundance, he handles this so admirably, with style, grace and humility. He is a magician with the ball and can do things with it that us mere mortals could only dream of doing. Certainly the best player of our generation, Messi will surely become the greatest the world has ever seen won’t he?