Lionel Messi: The Greatest?

Two of a kind: Lionel Messi has finally emulated Argentina legend Diego Maradona by winning the World Cup.

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For his legions of admirers, the debate about Lionel Messi's right to be regarded as the greatest soccer player in history is officially over.

The absence of a World Cup winners' medal has long been Exhibit A in the argument about why Messi does not rank above Pele and Diego Maradona in soccer's pantheon.

But with Argentina's victory over France in Sunday's jaw-dropping World Cup final in Doha, the case against the 35-year-old maestro is now surely closed.

In a glittering career that has spanned three decades, Messi has won 37 club trophies, seven Ballon D'Or awards and six European Golden Shoes.

There has been a Copa America title, an Olympic gold medal and a list of scoring and statistical records that may never be beaten.

The only remaining gap on Messi's CV — a World Cup victory — was comprehensively filled in on Sunday night over the course of 120 mesmerizing minutes at the Lusail Stadium.

In his final World Cup appearance — a record-breaking 26th for what it's worth — Messi scored twice as Argentina battled to a 3-3 draw in overtime before prevailing on penalties.

Not even Kylian Mbappe's magical hat trick for Les Bleus could upset Messi's appointment with destiny on a night that seemed preordained.

Former England and Barcelona forward Gary Lineker tweeted: "It’s been an absolute privilege to watch Lionel Messi for nearly 2 decades. Moment after moment of spellbinding, breathtakingly joyous football. He’s a gift from the footballing Gods."

"Lionel Messi. The best ever," was the instant verdict of England midfielder Declan Rice after Sunday's triumph. "We will never see a player like Messi ever again.”

Whether Messi really is the 'greatest ever' is a question, of course, that is as futile as the answer is subjective, a parlor game that boils down to the eye of the beholder.

Ranking greatness

What is undeniable though is that by sheer volume and range of silverware, Messi has won more than the other serious rivals to his "G.O.A.T" status: Pele and Maradona.

While Pele’s three World Cup triumphs remain unrivaled, the Brazilian icon’s club career pales in comparison to Messi’s.

In his peak years with Barcelona, the Argentine regularly scaled the pinnacle of European club soccer, winning four Champions League titles – arguably a technically superior arena than international soccer.

Maradona meanwhile won only one World Cup, and never lifted a European Cup during a club career in Europe spent mostly with Barcelona and Napoli.

The counter-argument of course is that Pele and Maradona played in an era where players were offered far less protection than the likes of Messi and his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pele hobbled out of the 1966 World Cup finals after taking one brutal tackle too many; Maradona was also subjected to roughhouse treatment throughout his career.

Maradona's former international teammate Jorge Burruchaga is reluctant to compare players across generations.

Burruchaga, scorer of the winning goal — set up by Maradona — in the 1986 World Cup final victory over West Germany says simply that Messi is the greatest player of his era.

"Win or lose, Messi is not more or less than Maradona," Burruchaga told AFP ahead of Sunday’s final. "Messi is going to be in history whatever happens."

"There are five players in the past 70 years who can be considered the best in the world — Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Pele, Maradona and Messi.

"Messi is in that list, whether he wins the World Cup or not. But I hope he does."

On Sunday, the hope of Burruchaga, and millions of Argentinian compatriots came true.


© Agence France-Presse

8 comments about "Lionel Messi: The Greatest?".
  1. Santiago 1314, December 19, 2022 at 12:19 a.m.

    To Me; the Player that Revolutionized the Game for All Players and Countries is still #1
    Johan Cruyff

    #2 Pele; Because he is Immortal, Just Like Babe Ruth or Arnold Palmer or Michael Jordan

    #3 Franz Beckenbauer... See #1, because he changed the Role of Defenders

    #4 Maradona; PURE TALENT... You can't Copy it, You can't Teach it, You can't Fabricate it in Some Lab or La Massia in Barcelona.

    #6 R7... Thoroughbred..... But, not a lot of Difference between him and Mbappe ( Who will probably break all CR7s Records)

    DiStefano could be Ranked ahead of Messi, but there just isn't enough know and exposed about the game then.

  2. R2 Dad replied, December 19, 2022 at 11:03 a.m.

    While I find these ranking exercises kind of tiresome, I do like your qualification of Players Who Revolutionized The Game. Maybe not fair to list only 1 Brazilian, as Garrincha, Roberto Carlos and others were unplayable in their day.

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, December 19, 2022 at 11:57 a.m.

    Yup R2... The GOAT List could get Really Long,
    Let's just Hope we are Not at the End of It.!!!

  4. David Ruder replied, December 19, 2022 at 12:49 p.m.

    Messi, perhaps the wests last great hope has also shown that a national team composed of home grown organic players  can still win the World Soccer Cup over a natinal team however composed of, but for how long.

  5. Chance Hall, December 19, 2022 at 5:56 p.m.

    messy the greatest???  You have to be kidding!  CR7 will always be the GOAT!!!

  6. Santiago 1314 replied, December 20, 2022 at 7:53 a.m.

    Chance, as a "Madridista" I used to agree with you....
    But, CR7s "Performance" ON and OFF the Field since he Left Madrid(Except for his Portugal Play, and Even that is now Tarnished) has Damaged his Image...
    And Messi now has a World Cup and CR7 Does Not.!!!
    Sad, but True.

  7. Bob Ashpole, December 20, 2022 at 1:40 a.m.

    Why can't we just appreciate great players for who they are without debating who is "best". To me it is like art. Do you see people debating which is the greatest piece of all time? It would be meaningless. 

  8. Santiago 1314 replied, December 20, 2022 at 3:23 p.m.

    Humm, Now that you Mention it;
    Mona Lisa or The Starry Night.???

    And does that Include Statues or Not.???
    David or La Pieta(my Favorite)

    Or does Size Matter.???
    Because the Statue of Liberty probably Tops them All.!!!

    Beauty is in the Eye of The Beholder(Just like Futbol.!!!)

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