I was sitting down the other day with a friend of mine who was 100% convinced Messi was not even close to the greatest player of all time. I asked him who was the greatest and he said probably Marodona or Pele. Both had won the World Cup and Messi had not. My problem with that argument is Messi has won Champions League (multiple times), Copa Del Ray and La Liga and was the player of the year for Europe many times over. But people want to keep bringing up how the World Cup has eluded Messi time and time again. That theory makes no sense to me.
There are a few major points we need to bring up when we talk about who is the greatest of all time. First, the time period in which the player was playing. In the late 60’s and early 70’s the game was different for Pele. Players were not expected to run box to box, up and down the field constantly, defend & attack all game while being in amazing physical condition. Taking nothing away from Pele but the game and the demands of the game were much different back than. Maradona was from a more recent time but the German team he played against in the final in 1986 was not even close to the German team Messi played against in 2014. Maradona also did not have the same consistency over his career as Messi. Messi is a professional in every way and Maradona was not. Maradona gained weight, had distractions off the field and lost focus later in his career. Messi has been nothing but professional and at the top level for almost 10 years in a row now with no let down. I would also want to know if all these people who are saying Pele and Maradona are the best ever watched multiple full games of Maradona and Pele? They watch Messi in full games all the time but I feel they just watch the highlights of Pele and Maradona. Highlights are tons of fun to watch, but it is not realistic to judge on highlights. Watch a highlight film of Messi and it is nothing short of spectacular. I can go on and make a case that both Ronaldo’s who are fantastic players and worthy of this conversation – Zidane & Roud Gullit are worthy maybe. I wasn’t around for Eusebio, Beckenbauer, Puskas, Cruyff but I saw the videos and they were great as well.
Trying to determine who is the greatest soccer player of all time is impossible. I do not think winning one tournament or game means anything at all. It is the body of work over a career that reflects greatness. In that body of work I guarantee there will plenty of wins and trophies. In sports nothing is guaranteed no matter how good the player may be. Soccer is a team sport with 11 players. It is not a team sport with 5 players, 2 players, 1 player or 9 players – it is 11 players and single handedly winning a game is a lot to ask even of the greatest of players – especially in todays modern game with organized defenses, tactically intelligent coaches, top conditioned opponents and overall a more developed game. Historically, Messi is one of the greatest players ever to play the game. Is he the greatest? I say “he can be considered the greatest ever”. However, I would say you can make that argument for a couple other players as well. That is all it will ever be is a subjective conversation of who is better. There will never be any proof. For me Messi is great and it would be hard to make the argument is not equal to any other of the great players mentioned.