Lionel Messi’s talent has never been in doubt but, despite his record-breaking goal-scoring feats, his genius will always be shadowed by the fact that he has failed to accomplish for Argentina what he has for Spanish giants Barcelona. This is where the crux of comparing legends finds its boundaries: Messi is not as good, or better, than German striker Gerd Mueller, whose record he equalled and then surpassed with his 85th and 86th goals of the season. Or, for that matter, Pele or Maradona. He is simply one of the greatest footballers of his generation.
The club-versus-country debate will be binding during a closer introspection of Messi’s feats. The silverware he has won for Barcelona is staggering compared to what he has taken home after representing Argentina. Some argue that winning the Uefa Champions League is harder than the World Cup and Messi has won three titles. He is also tipped to pick up his fourth World Footballer of the Year award next month. Perhaps it is fitting we celebrate Messi’s feats simply because they underline his incredible skill, concentration and consistency. His abilities have made football, and Barcelona, more enjoyable to watch. His potential as a role model may influence youngsters all over the world as they marvel at his humility and work ethics and wish to emulate him. Success comes with hard work and Messi exemplifies this. He is also selfless, putting the interests of his club over self.
Therefore, it is befitting that we recognise him as one of the all-time greats, rather than the greatest. Like the others of his ilk, Messi puts forth a strong argument, albeit in a Barcelona shirt.