Thursday, 2 July 2009

Is Lionel Messi the Best Player in History?

Barcelona president Joan Laporta recently stated in a press conference that his team's biggest star Lionel Messi is the best player in the history of the beautiful game.

The fact that Laporta has given Messi the cut above greats like Maradona, Pele, Zidane and Cruyff has irked many. Many have even charged him with disrespect towards the legends. But how can they blame him?

What the people criticising Laporta for his remarks keep forgetting is that at 22, Messi has already achieved far more than any of the above named players did at that young age (barring, perhaps, Pele, who had won the World Cup with Brazil when he was just 17 years old).

He has already won three La Ligas, one Copa del Rey and one Champions League with Barcelona and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina.

He scored his first professional goal at the age of 17, won his first professional title in the same season and he was also selected as both the FIFPro and World Soccer Magazine Young Player of the Year for three years running from 2005–2008.

What they also forget is that at this age, Messi has already taken up the mantle to be the face of the club he represents. It is an undeniable fact that when a person thinks of FC Barcelona, the first person that comes to mind from the current team is Messi.

Which of the above named players have, at such a young age, been the face of their respective clubs? Which of them has already been indispensable to the team they represent? And, most importantly, which of them has ever won the treble? The answer is, of course, none.

At 22, Diego Maradona was still hopping clubs. He joined Barcelona when he was 23, and never won the Champions League or the La Liga. Two years later, he demanded a transfer to Napoli, and there, at 26, Maradona finally came into his own.

Zinedine Zidane scored his first professional goal at the age of 19, which was the age at which Messi scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid. He did not win any trophies until he was 23, when his team, Bordeaux won the 1995 Intertoto Cup.

Johan Cruyff won his first Cup and League double with Ajax when he was 20 years old. At this age, Messi had already won two La Liga titles with Barcelona, and been part of the team that won the 2006 Champions League.

Pele was, arguably the closest to Messi in terms of achievements at such a young age. He won his first World Cup trophy with Brazil in 1958 and his second in 1962, at the ages of 17 and 21 respectively. However, Pele spent his career in the Brazilian League, which everyone will admit, was never as competitive as the leagues in Europe.

Which brings us back to whether Messi is the greatest player in history. Certainly, if we go by his age, no one can deny that Messi has had the best career of any other football legends.

But it would still be very early to say that his career would remain as glittering and lustrous throughout. Anything can put an end to a footballer's career - an injury here, a few poor games there and good players are often forgotten.

However, it is fair to say that if Messi improves, or even maintains the level his game is currently at, he would definitely become the unquestionable best player in history in the not-so-distant future.

anurag

60 comments:

barca4life said...

Messi won the fifa u-20 world cup too

Sid said...

As much as I would love to say yes, but the answer is "Not yet".

As much as I hate madrid, Zidane was something else. Havent seen Pele or Maradona play but I know for sure that there is some way to go till Messi crosses Zidane. He is on the right track though and has the right attitude.

barca4life said...

Didnt Cruyff win the treble? Yes he did in 1972, he would have been 24 for most of that season and it was in the dutch league. And actually cruyff won the quintiple in 1972 winning the eqivalent of the club world cup which was the intercontinental cup and the european super cup in 1972

groga said...

I think Zidane is terribly overrated.

He had his top at Juventus and during that time he has admitted that he used doping.

For his Madrid time, everybody remembers that goal in the CL final against Leverkusen (the Germans were the better team, by the way, Casillas man of the match) but in general he didn't do that well: one Liga title in five years!

Anonymous said...

dunno why, i have never ever liked zidane. always thought him overrated.

bono said...

we cant compare them , the history is history ,football is growing up

LeónDragón said...

zidane? was legendary.
but for me there was only one...
the best in football-history...
RIVALDO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
those who saw him, like i did, surely know what i'm talking about. for the doubters or those who don't saw him, do it!!!!!!ronaldo, i mean the real one, was bout to become better than all, but his injuries held him back from proving over years.
but i believe that people will talk the same bout messi in some years, when he goes on, doing his messi-shows

Anonymous said...

And he also has 2 Champions League titels and not one. He played for Barca A in 05/06. :)

LeónDragón said...

to zidane...
think that he had an incredible eye for his team-mates and a nearly perfect ball-handling, strong, precise passing-game, but, think that he never had that force to change a game at his own, like a maradona, rivaldo, ronaldo, etc.
he did it with passes and was surely an other type of player, surely a legend, but never liked him and his dumbface, always looking aggressive, like someone could have fright of this fool.
for me, he could never come near to the one & only, the legendary, king of kings RIVALDO

Sune said...

Zidane used doping? Lol, creatine is hardly doping. I can buy it in the supermarkets here in Denmark, so can you in many other countries (except France?).
It's basically just proteinpowder rofl

Anonymous said...

yes zidane is terrrrrrrribly overrated. he was successfully but there were a lot of players better than him but they had bad luck like roberto baggio.

messi is great. he achieved a lot of things with only 22 years. 2 x second best player of the world. maybe 1 x best player. 2 x cl, 3 x league. 1 x u20 world cup. 1 x olympia. 1 x spanish cup.

to become one of the best players you need success. and he is on a very good way.

if he wins the world cup twice, he will surely become the best if he continue performing like that season.

Anonymous said...

What a ludicrous article. He only became the best player in the world this year, never mind in history.
A brilliant player no doubt, world class certainly, but he has so far to go to get anywhere near Pele, Best, Cruyff and Maradona, and even in this Barca team, many Cules would tell you Iniesta is as important if not more so.

Really poor article.

Anonymous said...

If he continues to avoid injury like he has this season, then he can definitely become one of the greatest.

ej said...

I thnk that next season messi can get tthat title.

its easy RM get all superstars and bignames in the world , and messi lead barca to title if he do this he is allready best player in history .


what do you think ?

Anurag said...

@Anony - i havent forgotten that. but as far as i know, if you are not named in the final, you dont get the medal. he was injured for the final. is that true?

Xaviniesta said...

i thought we have the zidane of this age? > xavi :D

nways as for messi being the best player in history, its all subjective at this point but may i just say i dont know anyone so young (22) thats been up for wpoty like 2x already exc maybe ronaldo the brazilian who for me is the best there is (not having witnessed pele or maradona during their time). zidane is my all time fav player (being a supporter of france NT) and he was magnificent but i thought messi is just a wee bit more special than him.

Sune said...

At the end of the day CL and Liga titles dont compare to the World Cup. All the great legends shined on that stage and led their countries to glory.

I hope Argentina makes it to the World Cup and their two cules (Messi and Agüero) lead them to the trophy

LeónDragón said...

ooops, thaught it would stay behind the scene :)

pep said...

Ok, Leon... ;)


Thanks for sure!

Ben said...

Well despite the few errors already highlighted previously, the article is written on a interesting pov.

But it is written considering only one aspect. Great players are great mainly due to the skills, not because of the titles they have won. Messi may outshine others in this department but really, does it matter he has a few trophies more ? In the end we are not comparing the titles players win but the players themselves. Otherwise di Stefano with his 5 CLs would outshine the lot...

Not to take away from Messis talent but he still has a long way to go compared to the names brought up. And the age department is as relative as sth can get.

EkY said...

i would say, yes he'll be, but not yet

refter said...

Personally I still like Ronaldinho better. For me, he was more magic than Messi.

On a sidenote: tt's strange how you can see the nationality and the Brazilian-Argentinian difference in their style.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when people get carried away like this :-(

He has the potential to be as great as legends like Pele, Maradona et al, but he's nowhere near that yet.
He hasn't even won World player of the year yet. Re-write this article in 5 years time.

SJP said...

really good article, for me if messi wins the world cup this year then he will be one of the best, equal to maradonna (who to be fair single-handedly (no pun intended) won the world cup for argentina in 86) but at club level he is the best, age does matter, to have achieved what he has so young is incredible, and think how many titles he has the potential to win. only maradonna and pele are just above him because of the world cups, but individual skill and excitement he is the best player that i have ever seen anyway.

Anonymous said...

You havn't researched this article very well. By your logic you could make a the same case for Ronaldo, and if you think the team winning trophies is an indication of being the best player in history, then surely Ryan Giggs must be the best player in the history of the universe.
With regard to Pele, he played at a time when most players played in their own countries league and surely winning the world cup and scoring in the final at 17, along with being the 'face' or Brazil, the most successful national team in history beats all.

Spryte said...

Sad to see this blog, about barca news and transfers, putting up articles like this.

This article displays conjecture presented as fact, questionable statistics and is basically an utterly ridiculous topic. Very poor.

The news that Sergi is returning as a coach is the kind of information which makes this blog such a valuable resource, this inane article is very much out of place compared to the usual high standard.

rory said...

everyone's conveniently overlooking the key portion of the article: the end.

the argument is that IF Messi (and, by extension, barca) keep up this level of play (let alone improve. and he's clearly still improving. that's the scariest thing to me. plus, what if he starts getting protected more by the refs? YIKES) THEN who will be able to challenge him in ten years?

it is, to me counting your chickens before they hatch (one horrible injury and messi is a flash in the pan. may that NEVER happen). that said, on the assumption that messi peaks in his mid-late twenties (which means he has the next three or four world cups, at least if they make them, at which to possibly shine for the national squad) like most footballers, then it will be hard to argue against him.

he is walking amongst the giants and he's 22. we're lucky to get to watch him + root for him.

Marc4barca said...

international lvl doesn't make a player, maradona has never won the south american cup which is world cup with only south american teams and raul has never won a world cup or european cup, does that mean he isn't a legend? players can be great but without a reasonable team they can't win anything. argentina can't win world cup with their current team and neither can italy or germany or france. england and spain and brazil are destined for 2010 glory.

rahul said...

anurag i think playing in teh brazilian league n wining two world cups wit brazil is completely different. if u didnt know he scored two goals at teh world cup final n teh best player all tournament at teh age of 17 n how many players can do tht, so just coz messi is barca dont underrated other greats. i wud love messi to surpass anyone n everyone but right now he is one of teh best ever not teh best. i agree that zidane had other wordly ball control n passing n vision n everything but he couldnt change teh game at will like messi, r9, maradona, garrincha. but theres no way he is overrated just watch his performance in WC2006 at teh age of 34, how many great players can do that. in my opinion a player shud not entirely be judged by teh titles he has won bt by teh contribution he has made.
Teh fake ronaldo has won so many titles in his 6 yrs stint at manu but seriously hes not even 1/8th player everyone reckons him to be. using others hard work to ur own glory is not very legendary when u wont even run after a player after he steals teh ball from you with teh easiest of touches. in my opinion teh best players ever are teh brazilian ronaldo, garrincha, n maradona. had not been for his injuries ronaldo would have won more than 5 fifa world player awards. that guy had everything a player can desire of, dribbling with 5 to 6 players around him n still getting teh ball out n scoring. i can assure u no player can do that not even messi, but in future i hope messi becomes better than him.
its funny u didnt mention teh great R9. wel in terms of achievement at young age i think he surpasses messi, he scored 12 goals in 14 matches at teh age of 17.
by teh age of 21 he had already won two fifa world player awards,1 dutch cup, 1 spanish cup 1 spanish super cup, 1 uefa cup winners cup, plus a host of individual honors.
n if u really see barca r at a different level than they were back then.

pep said...

Give people time to grow, Spryte. I like to give people chances to develop their skills and our experience with Ramzi, Kamikaze and others have shown they grow very quick. So don't be too critical.

But thanks for the other compliments about the blog... ;)


Anurag isn't there but I just want to add as a side-note that he wrote it because Laporta last weekend said that

rahul said...

n teh zidane of this age is iniesta not xavi, xavi is teh 1st of his kind i think. but iniesta so reminds me off zidane.

barca4life said...

Its true messi is nowhere near the best player of this era far less of all history. He has begun quite well, but you have to remember a few years ago it looked like ronaldinho could have been one of the greats in the history of world football. Here is how i see it.

You have guys like ronaldinho figo rivaldo giggs henry who have done really great things but were not really the best of their time period

Then you have players like ronaldo (brazillian one) and zidane who won many things and were the best players of their generation and took the game to another level once in a 40 years or so

Next you have players like Cruyff Di stefano puskas etc who were legends but still a little below the big 2

And finally you have pele and maradona, once in a lifetime players that did things that will live on forever.

Right now messi is below the ronaldinho figo level because they proved over more than 1 year and in different countries. Messi has really only had 1 great year so far. Its way too early to get carried away with the best of all time.

I will agree that if he continues at this pace he will be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. If he continues and manages to win lets say 2 world cups 1 Copa America 5 champions league titles and 8 league titles I think he will without doubt the greatest player to ever play the game.

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of pointless discussions you see in american sports all the time. Besides you shouldnt judge primarily on titles, especially international titles. If maradona was from Fiji, he wouldnt have won anything on international level. I agree with Spryte, I dont care much for these kind of articles.

Anonymous said...

In terms of skill and talent, probably, until someone new shows up.

If he continues for another five years then in accomplishments.

Tough nobody lasts for that long, it's usually injuries, partying, booze, lack of hunger. Remember when Messi just started in CL and Primera, the determination ...

LeónDragón said...

this article isn't that bad.
anyhow it motivated many here to discuss and give a view of their opinion.
for me, enjoyed to let the world know, who's the best player in history for me,and think, it's nothing wrong on it.
the messi-already-legend-thing is not only here an issue, but in the whole football world. so why not throwing this issue on this blog here too

rahul said...

the only player a li bit overrated over teh course of history even though he is one of teh greatest is pele. if it had not been for him scoring just goals n taking away teh spotlight from really teh best player garrincha, then i think garrincha wud have been teh greatest of all time plus i dont hear anyone saying garrincha's name its so sad. its more like teh situation was at manu wit rooney n ronaldo, rooney doing all teh hard work and ronaldo getting all teh credit. more so i dont like pele he has a behavior n attitude more like teh fake ronaldo, jealousy, unsporting behavior saying stupid things all teh time. i would have love to see garrincha get more recognition and name even though he is dead, coz theres not gonna be a second garrincha again.

rahul said...

also if u add teh fact that garrincha never had proffesional training until teh age of 20 n got straight into teh brazilian national team, is even more astonishing.

Anonymous said...

Messi won two times champions league... In 05/06 season he did not play in final match, but he participated in tournament, so this year champions cup was his second...

LeónDragón said...

there is something similar on messi and garrincha. both had problems at a young age. garrincha had polio and problems with his legs and messi endocrine disorder.
that shows that nothing is impossible :)

pep said...

@ Leon:

helpfcb [at] gmail [dot] com

Anonymous said...

I cant believe no one takes Ronaldinho in consideration. He was way better than Messi or anyone else will ever be. I cant talk about pele or maradona cause i didnt see them that much. R9 is the only one close to Ronaldihno. And maybe Zidane.. But when Ronaldinho was in prime he was like from the heaven. He had it all. There wasnt anyone who had that much impact on football world in the last 20 years. In some countries they bought TV rights just too see Ronaldinho play. It is incredible what he did on field. He was fast, dribbling incredible, through balls just fantatstic, shot amazing, passes unpredictable, vision extraordinary, creativity superb etc. Messi must still work for a long time too reach that level. I am Barca fan and I admire Messi but he has to learn to pass the ball more, has to gain some vision. He sometimes annoys me when ignores his teammates and tries to do everything himself. This season people didnt notice that so much because results were here. But that easy changes and you can sink down very fast press takes you on.

Carrer de Corsega said...

I read the article but not the people's comments yet. I just have major issues with stuff like this.

Anu, you are going to find a job with ESPN in America if you keep writing like this. Their channel is something like this, "Kobe is scored 81 points tonight; is he the greatest ever?" Then tomorrow James gets a triple double and then the headline is, "LeBron: Better than Michael Jordan." Or Popovich said Ginobli is the best ever and they hop on that bandwagon. USC is the best college football team ever, then Texas beats them, and then all of a sudden the conversations changes to "Texas better than 67 Penn State?" or some garbage like that!

I just find these stuff sensationalist journalism with not much depth.

Your thesis is this: 22 year old Messi is better than 22 yr old Pele, 22 yr old Zidane, and 22 yr old Cruyff. But that doesn't mean that 22 year old Messi is better than Pele, Zidane, or Cruyff. All those people had long careers that defined their style, and Messi will certainly have that. And that is why it is so soon and premature to start these discussions.

You know, when Pope says something idiotic, all these Catholic authorities go out to find or fabricate some evidence to support it (reverse scientific method). It feels like Laporta's words are treated that way, too. Laporta is no Pope, but if you think he is, I suggest you start working on your "Victor Valdes is the best keeper in the world!"

Anu, don't be offended by what I say. I try to be constructive here; this is a quality blog that updates the fans on news, and I think it also deserves quality opinion/editorials. I liked your article the other day about Messi for Ballon d'Or because your arguments were factual and backed by statistics.

Anonymous said...

Messi has won two CL-titles!

Anonymous said...

Sorry guys but there is only one player who changed the soccer world more than the others. And this guy played for our team. He was the most spectacular player in the world history. He was perfect. Maybe if you create on PS3 in the FIFA game a player he could only be as perfect as him. HIS NAME IS RONALDINHO. GENIOUS. THE BEST. Rivaldo was good. A legend. Zidane very overrated, only of his titles. Maradonna very good, but same end like R10. Maradonna said one time that R10 was better then him. AND HE WAS IT REAL. MESSI IS GOOD BUT SORRY I SEE INIESTA NOT WORSER. Iniesta has the same technics, has more skills...

But all in all R10 impressed the world and show the soccer way in an other dimension. He plays perfect an he is THE BEST PLAYER EVER- AND BARCA NEED THE OLD R10...THEN WE DIDNT NEED RIBERY, SILVA AND ALL THIS SHIT....WE NEED THE OLD MASTER IN HIS BEST FORM BACK!!!!!!!!!

thebackseatstrangler said...

i agree with that Spryte dude. nothing personal against Anyourrag, i was just never a fan of op-ed pieces. people's long-winded, reaching comments are enough as it is. mine included i'm sure.

this blog's objective position on articles day in day out, syntax/grammatical errors and all, is what i found so charming about it :^)

you're a good guy pep & i applaud your wanting to let people get involved. maybe i shouldn't question pep's decisions ;^)

TengkuAmir10 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

what do you guys think of possebon

TengkuAmir10 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TengkuAmir10 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TengkuAmir10 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TengkuAmir10 said...

u r good anurag at pointing stuff up.

TengkuAmir10 said...

n guys.zhirkov to chelsea for 18million pounds.las time cska wanted to sell zhirkov to us for 30million euros.whats happening??why do we overprice our targets or why do we always get to buy the overpriced players??why?why?why???????

Anonymous said...

Guys new blog alert
http://mega-fcbarcelonablog.blogspot.com/2009/07/bringing-back-canteranos.html

Anurag said...

@anony - no match for this one, AT ALL. this blog is visited by thousands of people everyday

Sid said...

So u guys here find Zidane over rated? As much as we all hate Madrid, show respect where its due.

Tell me one thing he lacked. Amazing ball control, dribling, Superb shot, Dangerous sudden accelearation, the slow lazy dribbling suitable for crowded areas, Exact weight passes and the vision which could open up the best defenses.

He cudnt turn a game? Its rare to find players as decisive as him. And I am not talking about CL final or world cup final only.

So he peaked late, Atleast he was able to play at a high level till a very old age and stepped down gracefully when he felt his performances were not upto the mark. Best thing was hi level of consistency throughout the season. i have rarel seen him having a truly bad game.

refter said...

He was a real problem for Madrid in his last two years, Sid. It was not really "gracefully" how they felt forced to keep him ,in the team while he didn't add anything anymore. Great player but the French media made him bigger than he really was.

NC4Barca said...

I believe Messi will become much better thn Zidane, for sure. Messi has achieved more than what Zidane would have achieved in his entire career, except the world cup which Messi will in 2010 :)

For me Messi is best in the world and will peak only in next 7 to 8 years!! Oh Boy..if this is not the peak, then what will this chap be doing when he reaches that stage?? And there is no point comparing with past legends, coz I am sure most of us here wouldnt have seen them play. So I will compare Messi with contemporary players and IMO we should look into the future rather than at the past!! Even the so "Galacticos" will not be even a match to Messi. I will put it as, even CR + Kaka will find it difficult to match Messi's level...

downcast97 said...

This comparison is not logical. you cannot rank players based on how many or what titles they won. for example Cruyff has not won a world cup, but he is one of the greatest.
I think the way a player should be evaluated is through his overall contributions to his team, his mainted steady level of playing throughout his career and of course his style. it is a fact that without Iniesta breathtaking goal in CL, Messi wouldnt win the CL. but again, it was Messi who made the pass. this is the importance of contributions. the style, of course Messi has and he is very distinqueshed amongst the rest good players, the like of Rivaldo, Kaka, Ronaldinho, CR7. i think Messi will be the greatest, if he maintains to develop more and more which is very expected ( May God protect Messi), to get more insight to the game, and practically if he makes good contributions to his national team in a World cup, which i am very sure he will do it if they first go in there.
I am very certain that if things go smoothly with him, he will manage to be the best in history.
As for Zidane, he is one of the best in term of contributions, but his style doesn't rise up to the level of Maradona, Pele or even Messi. I believe in order: The greatest are Maradona, Pele, Messi Zidane and Cruyff . BUT, big but, Messi is still only 22 and he is still learning :)
Mr Laporta just foresaw the future, i think with time, he might turn out to be true.
Visca Barca

Emilio - Entre dois mundos said...

Please. Even if the BRazilian league was not as good, Pele won the World Cup at age 17, being the best player of the tournament. And his team Santos won two times the World Club Championship against Benfica in 62(with Eusebio) and against Milan in 63. They destroyed the champions of the champions league.

harcilepke said...

During last season his overall performance was very-very impresssive, like CR's 07/08.
But these assumptions(even questions) are ridiculous and meaningless.

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