Lionel Messi – The Greatest

Lionel Messi – The Greatest
Jul 1, 2016

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The night will be remembered for decades. As Chile celebrated winning the Copa America final on penalties against Argentina for a second consecutive year, we saw a familiar sight: Lionel Messi stood, in tears, thinking about what could have been. Later he, alongside 8 other Argentinian players, announced his retirement from the national team. Others, it has been suggested, quit because of allegations of corruption within the Argentinian FA but for Messi the reason was straightforward enough; “It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.” Messi knows the feeling better than most, having lost the previous final in Chile under almost identical circumstances. He was also on the losing side the year before in which they were beaten 1-0 in extra time by Germany, Mario Gotze scoring the decisive goal. He also lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final and to date, his only international honour is an Olympic Gold medal from 2008 in Beijing.

 

His individual tournament was far from a failure. He scored 5 goals in the competition. Only Eduardo Vargas could better that. They included a 19-minute hat trick against Panama and a superb semi final free kick against the United States which saw him sign off above Gabriel Batistuta as his nation’s all-time top goalscorer with 55 goals. It would be his final goal for his country.

 

It’s difficult to draw parallels between Messi and the others that could be called the greatest this century. Namely Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. But I will do my best.

 

Ronaldo is one of the greatest goalscorers of all time. His record at Real Madrid one of only a few to list more goals than appearences. Messi and Ronaldo both suffer in the common misconception that one requires international achievement to have really made it in football, with Ronaldo’s best international achievement being a runners-up medal in Euro 2004. To dispel this myth I need only one name; George Best. Best is undoubtedly the greatest British footballer ever and one of the all time greats and yet he never played in a World Cup finals. The difference between Messi and Ronaldo is that Messi is much more than a goalscorer.

 

Zidane was aesthetically the best sportsman ever to don a pair of football boots and has a World Cup as well as a European Championship to his name. The end of his international career was similar to Messi’s too. In the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, Zidane led a star-studded France team out in an attempt to reclaim the World Cup for his nation having missed out 4 years prior. With the game at a stalemate, Zidane responded to a taunt from an Italian defender and headbutted him in the chest. He was sent off in shame and Italy went on to win the final on penalties. Despite this, his career was fantastic, scoring the best Champion’s league final goal ever and winning more international, club and individual trophies than most could dream of. There is no doubt to his greatness but it is incomparable to Messi’s.

 

In short, there is no player like Messi. England and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand called him unplayable when asked about United’s defeat in the 2009 Champion’s League final. Luis Figo once compared watching him play to getting an orgasm. Samuel Eto’o and many others called him simply; a God. In my opinion Messi is the greatest footballer of all time and Argentina fans should pray every day that he does end his retirement – even if only for one tournament – to win them the World Cup in Russia.

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