Lionel Messi’s half century

by Ben McAleer

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Barcelona – Osasuna may not attract the same audiences as the Madrid derby or El Clasico but for fans who watched the Catalan’s 2-0 win last night would have witnessed history in the process. Lionel Messi became the first player to score 50 goals in a Spanish season and, as a result, broke Ferenc Puskas’ record of 49 goals in the 1949/50 season.

His 87th minute strike helped an under strength Barca overcome a plucky Osasuna side that, despite going one down in the first half courtesy of David Villa, were looking to upset the odds in a similar fashion to that of Sporting Gijon’s 1-0 win over rivals Real Madrid earlier in the month. It is a fantastic achievement for the Argentinean international who is often compared to former World Cup winner and hero Diego Maradona.

The argument has often been made that Messi is, hands down, the world’s best player. The ability to beat a man with a drop of the shoulder, his agility and the finesse in his finishing have helped him reach the remarkable tally with games to spare. Naturally, there are the doubters who prefer Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo to the tiny Argentinean due to the added physical presence the former Manchester United striker offers.

Yet, in comparison it is easy to see why a majority feel Messi is the more dominant of the two. With 23 assists adding to his 50 goals, compared to Ronaldo’s 42 goals and 13 assists despite playing one game less. For me, it is no coincidence that Barcelona currently find themselves top of La Liga, eight points clear of Madrid, in the same season that Messi found the back of the net, at least, 50 times.

Furthermore, his rich vein of goalscoring form has led to questions being raised as to whether Messi is in fact one of the best in the history of the game? Comparisons to Maradona were always going to happen due to the style of play between the two while some quarters of the media and fans alike have mentioned his name in the same breath as the greats of the game including Pele, Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and, of course, Maradona.

It is a huge sign of respect for Messi considering he is only 23. However, despite being of such a young age, the Argentinean has already accomplished so much. Four League titles, two Champions League medals and a World Club Cup are just a few of the trophies he has won with Barcelona while the individual honours stretch to more than forty in his already illustrious career.

However, it is a World Cup winners’ medal that Messi needs in order to be considered one of, if not the, best in the history of the game. Despite Argentina having a great chance to go all the way at South Africa last year, they crashed out in emphatic style to 3rd placed Germany, 4-1 in the quarter finals. Yet, you have to remember that Cruyff never won the widely acclaimed trophy, coming closest in 1974 as Holland finished runners up to West Germany.

Messi does have time on his hands to win the coveted trophy and nothing would be better for the nation than to win it in Brazil, one of the country’s biggest international rivals. When that time rolls round, the Barcelona striker will be 27 and reaching the peak of his career or even perhaps already at his peak. Nevertheless, his half century return of goals this season is a fantastic achievement for somebody so young and fans would be hard pressed to find a player better than him in the game at this time. One World Cup winners’ medal and we will be talking about one of, if not the, greatest ever player to grace the beautiful game.

Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben McAleer

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  • billy

    def the best player of his generation by a million miles!

    He will win the World Cup with Argentina, chances are it will be in Brazil too

  • Mike

    Give him time- he’ll get his head down and improve even more!

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