I’ve stopped trying to fight it.
Lionel Messi is the best footballer to play the game. Period. End of discussion. At least in my head.
The 30-year-old’s match winning performance against Ecuador was straight from a Roy of the Rovers script.
Argentina went one down after conceding their quickest ever goal, only for Messi to come through with a glorious treble, the last of which was a delicious chip.
His career tally for club and country currently stands at 582 goals in 716 games.
This is where I should probably point out that Messi isn’t a striker.
Okay, that’s being cheeky, but he’s a not a traditional striker in terms of holding up the ball or playing on the last line of defence.
Because Messi is so much more than that. He’s a creative tour de force.
Messi has provided 137 assists in 389 league games since breaking into the Barcelona side on 16 October 2004.
But let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. The elephant that just so happens to be shaped like Gonzalo Higuain.
Because if it wasn’t for Higuain- normally such a fine finisher- going missing in finals then Messi would be a World Cup and Copa America winner.
Higuain missed glaring chances against Germany in World Cup 2014 and Chile in Copa America 2016, having been put through on goal twice by defensive mistakes.
That would remove the notion that Messi can’t be considered better than Diego Maradona until he delivers on the international stage once and for all.
Messi, and Messi alone, is the reason why Argentina will be fighting for another World Cup this summer.
Take away the goals. Take away the honours. What does a footballer have?
Messi has joy. Bundles and bundles of joy.
You can watch ten minute YouTube compilations of his shoulder drop- a move which takes two seconds to execute- to see what damage he can do to a defender.
It’s this which separates Messi from so many others.
You can score all the goals, provide all the assists and win all the trophies, but what the inner-child in us really wants to see is a player having his soul removed because of a nutmeg.
Over to you, James Milner…
Had Ronaldo continued free of injury his entire career he may well have been in the same discussion as Messi, such was the joy he provided for football fans.
It wouldn’t be possible to go an entire conversation on Messi being the GOAT without mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro.
Now this is where it gets confusing.
Much like which way round you like the toilet roll to sit in the holder (under), or what the best flavour of ice cream is (mint choc chip), the choice between Messi and Ronaldo comes down to personal preference.
Some of you reading this will think Ronaldo deserves to go down as the greatest ever.
That’s fine. You’re wrong, but that’s fine (insert fishing rod emoji).
For what it’s worth, Messi just edges it in my view because in a game ever more defined by pace and power he’s dominated with a 5ft 7in frame.
That’s not to take anything away from the comfortably 6ft powerhouse that is Ronaldo, who’s undoubtedly put unthinkable hours into becoming the player he is today.
While we’re on the subject of today’s game, let me explain why I rate Messi higher than Pele despite never seeing the Brazilian play.
Football as a whole is better than in Pele’s day. The standard is higher, the equipment is better, the coaching is more advanced.
That’s not to say there weren’t incredible players. It’s just that your Chris Brunts of today would far exceed the Chris Brunts of Pele’s era.
It’s just my opinion. Football is just a game of opinions, after all.
But anyone who tries to tell me that Messi isn’t the greatest to ever lace up a pair of football boots is, in my opinion, wrong.
MORE FROM MESSI:
- Lionel Messi once lost 6-1 to Bolivia
- Are Real Madrid more reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo than Barca are on Lionel Messi?
- The next Messi who went from scoring hat-tricks in the Camp Nou to playing for Ipswich