Why Messi Isn’t The Greatest Ever

by admin

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Lionel Messi registered a record-breaking five goal haul last Wednesday, as a boisterous Barcelona swept aside a baffled Bayern Leverkusen outfit, to march promptly into the Champions League Quarter-Finals.

Messi once again exhibited his undeniable quality and complete understanding of the modern game, bringing to the boil the debate that has simmered under the surface since he adopted Barcelona’s number 10 shirt from the majestic Ronaldinho in 2008.

That season saw a 21-year old Messi score 38 goals on his way to claiming La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies and the youngest top scorer in Champions League history picked up the UEFA Club Forward of the Year and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year awards, coming runner-up in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year.

Having received a staggering 46 accolades since then, netting another 153 times in just 157 appearances for Barcelona, Messi has proven to football spectators worldwide that he is a truly unique talent.

But, is Lionel Messi ‘The Greatest Footballer Ever’?

Last May, Wayne Rooney was helpless to prevent the Argentine running rings around his teammates at Wembley, once again crushing his dreams of Champions League success. Despite such a brutal infliction of pain, Rooney found only pure pleasure in observing Messi’s latest masterclass, tweeting “Messi is a joke. For me the best ever.”

When talking of all-time greatest footballers the same names inevitably arise such as Pele, Cruyff, Maradonna, De Stefano, Puskas, Beckenbauer, Platini, Eusabio, Francescoli and Best.

Having scored a mind-blowing 1,283 career goals in 1,363 appearances, Pele is considered by many as the number one footballer ever, when forced to choose. The so-called ‘King of Football’, who famously quipped, “I was born for soccer, just as Beethoven was born for music”, has his own views on whether Messi is eligible for the title of ‘Greatest Ever’.

In January Messi scooped the FIFA Ballon D’or award for the third successive year and Pele was present at the ceremony to admit, “I like Messi a lot, he’s a great player. Technically we’re practically at the same level.”

However, the Brazilian legend asserted, “When Messi’s scored 1,283 goals like me, when he’s won three World Cups, we’ll talk about it.” He further clarified, “He’s a great player for Barcelona, but when he plays for Argentina, he doesn’t have the same success.”

The 71-year old global football icon displayed his sense of humour, claiming “People always ask me: ‘When is the new Pele going to be born?’ Never. My father and mother have closed the factory.”

Joking aside, Pele makes a valid point given that his 77 goals in 92 international appearances, including three World Cups and countless international records vastly outweigh Messi’s 22 scores in 67 games, boasting only one tournament victory in the 2008 Olympics.

Messi supporters would argue that at 24 years of age, assuming he remains injury-free, he will have every opportunity to meet and exceed the numerous achievements made by the Brazilian.

This statement holds great truth and it is impossible to construct arguments that successfully derail the assertion of Messi as the ‘Best Player of the Modern Era’.

As a generation we must acknowledge how privileged we are to witness such aristocratic displays of ingenuity on the football field.

We must also recall that our knowledge of Pele’s greatness is formed from vivid recollections passed down by those fortunate enough to have seen him perform or through rare clips of his wizardry, but primarily from reading of his accomplishments statistically.

Granted the wealth of modern technology enables us to chronicle Messi’s career in a more comprehensive manner, but when the final whistle blows the bare bones of a legendary striker’s career is exposed through numbers.

Lionel Messi is an exceptionally gifted talent who has the world at his feet, but his sensational career record of 254 goals in 384 games still falls tremendously short of Pele’s, who can rest assured, temporarily, that he remains ‘The Greatest Footballer Ever’.

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  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Mystical Mike

    he’s the greatest club player of time yes!

  • chisbona

    Two points of your argument are based on no. of goals scored and 3 world cups won by Pele. Based on goals alone then Pele is no.1 and there is no second,third’ or fourth position after Pele. Coming to world cup, Pele will compete with other 11+ Brazilians who won those trophies with Pele. Some of them were even more important as Pele didn’t play all the games during the 3 world cups. This will eliminate players like Cryff, Eusebio, Platin etc who never won the world cup. To win a world cup you need an all round good team not just a few good individuals. My point is, in modern football to score 1200+ goals in a professional career you need to be scoring at least 90 goals per year. I doubt Pele would do that in our time. This is why players like Messi can also be considered for what they do in Modern football. In Zambia during the 70 nties, we had a player who scored 105 goals in one season. Did the world hear about Godffrey Chitalu? I doubt.

  • http://www.sportfourthought.blogspot.com Dom Wallace

    @Mystical Mike: Totally agree

  • http://www.sportfourthought.blogspot.com Dom Wallace


    I understand entirely where you are coming from. However, I think you may be missing the main point of my article. I am not intending to claim that statistics alone are the reason that Messi cannot be regarded as ‘The Greatest Player Ever’. What I am trying to elude to is the fact that to be a great in any aspect of life you have to prove your abilities consistently over a long period of time.

    While Messi is by no means a flash-in-the-pan, the point to note is that he has not being playing world-class football for an extended period of time. I have no doubts that if he manages to stay injury-free for the rest of his career he will have every right to claim the throne of ‘The Greatest Player Ever’, but having only been plying his trade at the top level for a mere four years, we must put things into perspective and give the respect due to those who have performed in a similar vain for many years.

    Look at Ryan Giggs for example, he has been playing first class football for 20 years with Manchester United.

    In a facebook-frenzied, tweeting-mad environment the modern world operates in, we are all too quick to label triumphs ‘The Best Ever’. All I ask is a little objectivity. Messi is a unique talent who will, I am sure, one day possess the right to the title of ‘The Greatest Footballer Ever’, but right now he does not.

  • Jacobs

    Am still young. Can someone tell me how many world footballer of the year title did Pele win? How many trophies did he win was he decorated with? How many years did he spend playing football? Was there technology as this then? How many countries or clubs compete then? Was football popular at that time like this?

    I humbly need your response.

  • http://newsnow.co.uk monkagedi

    i don’t undermine ur analytic abilities of this game. we hv 2 wait nd c if he can…

  • http://www.dexysden.co.uk/author/keith-oconnell Keithokeefe

    For now there is no disputing Pele, but given time and avoidance of major injury, Messi WILL assume the title.

    The problem I do have with Pele’s record however, is that a vast swathe of his goals came against nothing teams.

    A little brief research from Yahoo answers quotes…

    “Pelé’s goalscoring record is often reported as being 1280 goals in 1363 games. This figure includes goals scored by Pelé in non-competitive club matches, for example, international tours Pelé completed with Santos and the New York Cosmos, and games Pelé played in for armed forces teams during his national service in Brazil.The number of league goals scored by Pelé is listed as 589 in 605 games”.

    In some of these games he reached double figures, so as impressive as the numbers are, they have to be taken in context.

    Messi doesn’t mess about with such meaningless games.

  • Johann B Good

    Pele’s 1000+ goals is just not valid data. At least half of those games were friendly meaningless games. Pele likes to mention it as a milestone, but it just can’t be used as one. If can, then why shall we put Pele ahead of scorers like Arthur Friedenreich or Pepi Bican? The first one actually scored more goals than Pele (and again, half of it was on meaningless tournaments). The second one scored about 800 but in only about 600 games. I have never heard that Pele mention their names as important at all.

    Besides, Pele’s contribution to 3 Brazil titles is pretty overrated. Yes, he did contributed to the first title (thanks to the fact that AC Milan skipper “Mazzola” Altafini got injured) as much as Garrincha, Vava, Djalma Santos, and the player of the tournament Didi. With 6 goals, he was the second scorer of the tournament, waaay beyond Just Fontaine who scored 13. In WC 1962 he got injured at the beginning of the second game and didn’t play at all after that. Brazil won without him. Dominantly. It leads us to the conclusion that his importance wasn’t so big as he claimed. In WC 1966, he got injured again and the team passing its heyday couldn’t do much. And in WC 1970 Brazil had probably the best 11 ever assembled at the World Cup. Pele played great role for that team, but the contribution from Jairzinho and Gerson were equally important at least. Later on, Gerson even admitted that Pele did never attributed to him the importance he deserved.

    And apart from the WCs, let’s discuss Pele’s contribution to the Copa Libertadores (peer of the Champions League). Pele played the total amount of 15 games in CL during his career. It’s pretty much what Messi does on the annual basis. And he managed to win more CL titles than Pele, although he’s only 24.

    Bottom line, Pele is overrated. Crowning him would be sort of putting George Mikan over Wilt Chamberlain just because he won all those finals unlike Wilt. If Messi win one WC title as the player of the tournament, he might be regarded as the best player ever played. Maradona has one, and also Zizou, and Ronaldinho, and Kaiser Franz and all the other football greats. Pele got lucky of being Brazilian and not for example Welsh. Lads like Giggs or Best just weren’t that lucky. He might won 3 WC titles, but the influence of the single player on the team Maradona had in 1986 was unaccomplishable. Therefore, I regard Maradona as the best player ever. And Messi will probably have the best football career ever, if stays healthy.

  • http://www.sportfourthought.blogspot.com Dom Wallace

    @ Jacobs
    Google. Pele. Done

  • http://www.sportfourthought.blogspot.com Dom Wallace

    @ Johann B Good

    You make some valid points and I understand all these arguments, but as stated previously, my original article is not to pronounce reasoning for why Pele is so great. Rather it is to help others realise that celebrating a man’s four year achievements as the best ever is not plausible. Messi demands all the superlatives one can possibly conjure up, but it is just too early to crown him as The Greatest Ever. You even admit this yourself, claiming “I regard Maradonna as the best player ever.” I would even agree there is arguable justification for this. What I cannot agree on is that “Pele is overrated.” This my friend is what is known as nonsense.

  • JG

    Pele is not even in the same level as Ronaldo or Zidane in the “Modern Era”. You’re all insane.

  • JG

    I mean, Messi is not even in the same level as Ronaldo or Zidane.

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