Does Leo Messi rank amongst the greatest ever?

It’s typically accepted that Pele and Maradona are considered to be the best players of all time. Fair enough, both have a record of goalscoring and trophy-winning along with that special kind of charisma that separates the truly stratospheric stars of sport (Ali, Jordan, Bolt, etc.) from the merely dominant (Federer, Schumacher, etc.).

But, if Barcelona’s and Argentina’s Leo Messi continues what he is doing right now, I have no doubt that he belongs right in there with the greatest attacking players of all time.* That’s how good he is. At times it seems as if he is almost single-handedly shoving Barcelona towards one of its most golden periods in even that club’s very successful history.

To me, there is only one thing remaining for Messi to accomplish before you can put him right in amongst the greatest of the great and that is, of course, the World Cup. If Messi leads Argentina to the World Cup, then you need to amend the big two of all time to the big three.

For now, I think Messi belongs right on that doorstep outside the Pele/Maradona level with other attacking greats like Eusebio, Puskas, Platini, and Wolyniec (I kid, I kid). But if he can get his hands on the World Cup, now or in the future, I think you have to put him right next to Pele and Maradona atop the list of the greatest of all time.

What do you think? Is Messi close to climbing that Pele/Maradona summit of greatness?

*I don’t even bother comparing guys like Pele or Maradona to defensive greats like Beckenbauer, Moore, or Maldini. It’s not that they’re any worse or less important, they’re just apples and oranges. That’s even more the case with goalkeepers.


20 thoughts on “Does Leo Messi rank amongst the greatest ever?

  1. Messi won’t win a World Cup. That’ll be the only omission from his CV. Other than that, when he’s done he’ll be in the same breath as Pele and handball. That said, this is probably a better discussion for after his career is over or at least later in his career. Nobody was saying Jordan was the best ever or could be considered until 92 or 93.

  2. If Messi takes Barcelona to another La Liga/CL, and leads Argentina to a World Cup victory, can he enter the discussion about the all time greats?

    He’s clearly the kind of talent that should end up in that top tier of players, but is the limitation on him being placed there time based, like the previous commenter? If it is achievement based, well, he’s playing in a pretty fantastic team at the moment, he might be able to achieve a lot by the time he is 25.

  3. Calm down, everyone. Yeah, he’s a great player. Not immortal. Did you see the defense and midfield he was up against last night? Not top notch by any stretch. Silvestre is not a top quality back. Put it in some perspective. No Arshavin, Fabregas, Gallas. Of course the guy is going to run rampant at home.

  4. LOL!

    I check Big Soccer and I learn that Federer is “merely dominant.”

    I check Tennis Talk and learn that Messi wasn’t that good in his 4 goal performance.

    Fed is “merely dominant?” Come on…. No one is even close in the open era.

  5. [ame=””]YouTube- Copa America Venezuela 2007 – Final Brasil Vs Argentina[/ame] – Long story short, the greatest ever would not have let that happen.

    Having said that, your question was if he’s getting there, and the answer is clearly yes. He has to win something with Argentina’s Senior Team (i.e. other than Olympics or u-20s) to get in completely, though.

  6. At 19? Come on…

    Too early to be classified thusly, for sure, but if he puts in a few more seasons even approaching this level, no doubt. I’ve had the pleasure of watching 2 players I felt were on another plain from others around them, at the highest levels…Ronaldo and Zidane…Messi is more dominant than either right now.

    Funny thing is, Xavi and Iniesta are about that level as well.

    I fear with Maradona as manager, he won’t have international success…but he’s got plenty of time.

  7. At 17, Pele already had a World Cup Winner’s medal around his neck.

    Having said that, my main point is that Messi’s “requiem” for best-ever status is incomplete at best…for the time being (with over a decade to cement his place at the top). And for coaching, Zidane managed to get France to the ’06 final (highlight: his utter domination of Brazil) in spite of Domenech, although to be fair that team had way better defenders than Argentina at the moment.

  8. Not yet. Messi has to win a World Cup. That doesn’t mean he needs to be on a winning team, I mean he has to lead Argentina to the World Cup.

    His biggest problem is that if Argentina wins, Maradona stays one step ahead by winning the Cup as a player and a Coach, while Messi will only have won it as a player.

    That said, Messi needs to play out his career before he is placed among the greats. There are too many young stars who burn out, have slowed down in their careers, or aren’t done yet… Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney…

  9. [QUOTE=TCompton;bt53978]

    His biggest problem is that if Argentina wins, Maradona stays one step ahead by winning the Cup as a player and a Coach, while Messi will only have won it as a player.

    Very true…unfortunately…

  10. Barring injury he will get there. At 22, he has quite a few years to go in his physical prime as a player. Frankly I don’t see why winning a World Cup is that essential in his being considered one of the greatest or the greatest. Luckily he was born in country that has enough talent that it is possible that he could win one but if he was born in, say Peru or Bolivia, would it be a requirement given his abilities for him to be in the conversation.

    Players like Cryuff, Eusebio, Di Stefano, Platini, Zico and Best are in the conversation though they never won a World Cup.

    And a player like Zidane reputation is disproportionately elevated because he did.

  11. Not yet. Two things. Messi at least has to be great at a WC. The second, he needs to develop some more. He is a brilliant attacker but not the fulcrum. He plays off a playmaker. Xavi is the playmaker for Barca. It is the reason I think he is struggling in the NT recently. He misses Riquelme to play off of.

  12. if maradona learns to use messi like barca do, argentinas chances of winning world cup ’10 would double.. messi still has world cup ’14 and ’18 and even maybe ’22. he has time, but he is definitely on track. Noone can do what he does, no one.

  13. the fair way to judge Messi is by what he has done until the age of 22, compare to other greats at that age. therefore he IS good enough to be compared to Pele, Maradona, Cruyff. but better, it is too soon to say.

    Pele at 22 was already 2 times world champ with Brazil and Santos and had scored already around 500 goals! maradona was champion of the world at 25, and went to napoli at 23, and at age 22 he had around 140 career goals.
    Messi has 119 goals , is 3 times La liga winner, 2 times euro champ, world champ with barca, olympic winner with Argentina and one failure in world cups, although with little playing time. (2006)

    saying also that Messi, or Pele, or Maradona, Di stefano etc or any player of this quality would not do well if he played in another epoch is also stupid, of all players these ones mentioned had the skills to be great in any football era. they had the ability to adapt to any situation.

    Messi is still young, in a phase where he uses his great speed a lot. when he grows older he will be slower, but more experienced and will also develop even further his passing, assists, and in general the playmaker role. possibly he will improve his free kicks as well.

  14. Luck will be an important factor in winning the world cup. It might be possible for Messi to lead Argentina close to the world cup, but luck, teammates, coach, and teamwork(coach) are not in Messi’s control.

    If Argentina do win, then Messi gets into the all time great, but ppl will still say stuff like “oh cuz he has xavi and iniesta” “oh he is with argentina, not with lower ranked countries”. He will need to play good thru out his career in order to join the all time great. It sucks now that information is so easily passed around the media. He can be compared easily with any player, past and present.

    The illusion of the past is always great, people talk about how great maradona and pele are, but not many have seen them play. there are youtube videos of their footage but that’s it for most of us born after 1980. by no means am I saying maradona and pele aren’t great, their trophies make them truly legends, but soccer is about more then trophies.

    Even if messi doesn’t win a world cup, he will still be considered a legend in many of this generations’ eyes.

  15. [QUOTE=usafan12;bt53940][ame=””]YouTube- Copa America Venezuela 2007 – Final Brasil Vs Argentina[/ame] – Long story short, the greatest ever would not have let that happen.


    You’re kidding right?

    Pato Abbondanzieri the Greatest Ever?
    Keep looking for reasons to not consider Messi among the greats. And, find better “evidence” than that…

    Had the pleasure of seeing both Pele and Maradona play in person. Much more Maradona.
    Pele was never reknowned for his passing skills. He was not really a “playmaker” unless he was creating his own play that he finished. He and Messi are very similar in that regard.
    Pele never played in Europe, therefore never won any of the European club championships. He won the Copa Libertadores equivelant one or two times, as well as the Intercontinental Cup.
    Maradona scored lots of goals, and was quite the finisher in the mid to late 80s, but his genius was in the dribble and the pass, frankly the most exquisite passrer of the ball/playmaker I’ve ever seen.

  16. I think the point was to say Messi, like Jordan and Ali, has that “something special” personality/entertainment-wise that makes him stand out. He draws a big audience.

    And while Fed has been dominant for years, he’s only a baby step above Pete Sampras in terms of entertainment factor. He’s a reserved player on the court – he just doesn’t show a lot to the crowd (though this is getting less true).

    (As to the dominant point – tough to say no one’s close when he has a losing record against the other dominant player of the day)

  17. How many “greatest ever”s have we seen over the years who were the greatest ever… for a year or two. But then they put on some weight, get injured, get banned for drugs or get embarrassed by transvestite hookers and then they fall in the estimation of the history minded?

    When Messi has spent a decade at the top as the heartbeat of every team he’s played on like, say, Zidane, then we can call him the greatest ever. I hope that will happen in Messi’s case, but it’s just a little early to say.

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