Sports has become of one of the fundamental elements of the lives of certain people either as a spectator or a player while for others it is just an annoying and trivial thing to the pursuit. But sports is considered as a valuable contributor to team building skills, character building and it also promotes healthy life (Storey “sports and geography”). Parents should encourage their children to take part in sports because sports will increase their sense of competition and by pointing out certain dangers in competitive sports, this will reduce their psychological and social traumas (Ogilvie “The child athlete”). One such sport is football, also known as soccer. Soccer is the most watched game in the world and is the national game of ten countries in the world.
It is the most dominant sport in the world especially in South America, Europe, and Africa. Its popularity is visible from the fact that the final of 2014 football world cup was broadcasted all over the world, watched by six hundred million people around the globe and every year the Champion’s League final is viewed by three hundred million football loving people. More than one hundred and eight countries around the world take part in football world qualifiers. This sport enjoys the global following of four billion followers (Sawe “What are the top popular sports in the world?”). As mentioned above, it is the most dominant sport in South America and every child born there crave to become a football player.
History has witnessed great football players, who came from South America and ruled the football world. A boy was born in the Rosario, Santa Fe Province of Argentina, whose father was a steel factory worker and his mother was a part-time house cleaner. That boy was a huge football fan since childhood and wished to become a footballer himself and represent his country in football. That boy started playing football at the age of five at the local club where his father coached and showed some excellent skills in the young age and got selected for the club known as Newell’s Old Boys, where he was the youngest player at a small age of eight years. Up till that time, the little boy was already in the eyes of youth clubs of the world and every club wanted him to go to their youth team. His career was ascending to the age of eleven, but at the age of eleven, he met a tragedy as he was diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency. His height stopped increasing, and for the treatment of this illness, a lot of money was required. All the local clubs that he played at were not willing to pay for his treatment. At this crucial juncture, the coach of Football Club Barcelona came forward to help him get out of his misery and pay for his treatment. He also took that little boy with him to Spain, and the boy started playing in Barcelona’s youth academy as he was destined to play the most famous game of the world and become the world’s greatest footballer.
That boy was Lionel Messi, who is the greatest player ever to set foot on the football pitch and graced the football with his presence (Part “The Flea: The amazing story of Lionel Messi”). Lionel Messi started his professional career at the little age of seventeen years and played his first career game in 2004 and scored his first goal at the same age against RCD Espanyol. This research paper will proceed in such a manner that it has two segments. In first this research paper will compare Lionel Messi to his contemporary era players and in the second part with the top players of past. In the present era, Messi will be compared to his biggest competitor Cristiano Ronaldo and in the past with Pele and Diego Maradona. The tone of this research paper is informative, and its intended audience is all the people that are related to football. The purpose of this Research paper is to eliminate the dilemma that has been going on for about a decade, i.e., “who is the greatest footballer of all time? Although many players in history boast similar goals to Lionel Messi, however, there are other contributing factors which makes him the greatest player the world has ever seen such as his selfless football, his individual records and the fact that he is playing in the era of managerial tactics and proving his worth.
Lionel Messi is a ruthless goal scorer despite facing any team, whether it be the great national teams or it is the giant clubs comprises of the best defenders in the world. He has scored a lot and lot of goals, but the beauty of his game lies in his playmaking abilities and the way he tosses the ball to other players that are free. Messi passes the ball in such a manner that the defenders do not get a chance to stop or intercept the ball. He is a highly selfless player, whose interest lies in the performance and victory of his team. He is a player that every team craves for because he does not play for himself but still ends up on the list of top scorers every year.
The factor which makes him better than other star players who scores a lot of goals is that he remains the highest scorer and at the same time still manages a place among the top assisters in the league. He has more than two hundred and fifty assists in his career which is a huge figure for a player who scores a lot and plays at the position of winger. He has scored more than five hundred goals in his career in addition to his iconic assists figures (Acosta “Assists”). His goal to game ratio is zero point eight zero (0.80), which is iconic and outshines his contemporary players (Myson “Messi’s Better goal to game ratio than Ronaldo”). Goal to game ratio means that the goals person scores in a match, and it is evaluated by dividing goals per games.
He has put a lot of phenomenal plays throughout his career and has never disappointed his fans. He has single handily won a lot of big matches for his country and his club and had shown excellent skills in big games whether it is El Classico, world cup matches, La Liga matches, club world cup matches or Champions League matches. He has outclassed all the big teams that he has faced. In these games, he has shown such selfless football that all the fans fell in love with him, both in the form of his incredible and impossible goals and in the form of phenomenal display of dribbles and playmaking abilities. He is the best in key passes and opportunities created for other players. He has more key passes than any other player of the present era. He averages of two point three (2.3) key passes per game, and he is among the top players with most dribbles completed (Whoscored “Lionel Messi”).
Throughout his career span up till this day, he has been one of the most consistent players and performed in almost all the games that he played in the form of both playmaking abilities and goals. He helped his club win on all the fronts they compete in and remains the most prominent figure in the success of his club winning those titles. Unluckily he has not won any title or Cup with his national team. However, he has helped them qualify for the finals of the main international events that are 2014 world cup final against Germany and two Copa America final. Throughout those competitions, Lionel Messi has shown great game even in the final of the world cup, he created a lot of chances for their teammates, but they could not execute it and ended up losing the world cup to Germany (Richards “Lionel Messi has failed in four main Finals”). However, he did win Fifa under twenty-one World Cup 2005 known as Youth Championship with his national team at the age of eighteen. In this tournament he proved himself to be the game’s most unstoppable force (Eurosport).
Lionel Messi is such a player who has a tremendous amount of individual records to his name and has also helped his club made many records as well. By and by such news would strike one’s ear that Lionel Messi broke another record. He is just sabotaging many records which were made decades ago, whether it is the goal by a player being merely seventeen years old or hat trick by any player at the age of nineteen years (Balague “Messi-The Biography”). He also broke the record for most goal in a calendar year made by Gerd Muller some forty-five years ago. This record was considered impossible to break and but Messi broke it and made a new world record by scoring ninety-one goals in a year in 2011-2012 season, which is a huge milestone (Guinness world record news “Barcelona’s star Messi broke the scoring record”). He has the record of scoring five goals against Bayer Leverkusen in champion;s league game and he is also the all-time top scorer of El-Classico with twenty-three goals. Messi also holds the record for consecutive eight seasons with forty+ goals and has the most number of appearance in Fifa Worldpro Eleven that is ten times from 2007 to 2016. He also holds the record for most appearances in top three candidates for Fifa Ballon d’Or and winning it five-time which is a world record, and many other records are also in his name (Fc Barcelona “Messi’s individual Records”).
Messi’s records and statistics are beyond comparison, but the only player that is compared to him in term of goals and performances in the present era is undoubtedly Cristiano Ronaldo. Although Cristiano Ronaldo is an excellent player and is among the top footballers of all times and has scored more goals than Messi, however, the reason for his more goals is that Messi is two years younger than Ronaldo and has started his career in in 2004 while Ronaldo started his Career in 2002. Ronaldo has scored about forty goals more than Messi but has played one hundred and sixty games more than Messi. The other important point which distinguishes them and makes Messi superior is his assists, Messi bagging more assists than Ronaldo despite fewer matches. There is a difference in their game style as well as Ronaldo plays mostly in the box and wait for the pass and scores, while, Lionel Messi gets the ball and dribbles himself from the half. First, he looks for the pass, if anyone is free, he gives the ball to him or scores himself. The difference between them is that Ronaldo is a selfish player while Messi is a very selfless player. The point which Ronaldo’s fans make to win an argument is that Messi is bad at penalties and headers, but if one looks at the stats of both of them then one will easily realize that Ronaldo has missed more penalties than Messi in his career. Secondly, Messi has short height due to his illness and cannot win headers with his size, but still, Messi has scored phenomenal headers in his career as well. Messi has won five Ballon d’Ors while Ronaldo has four (MessiVsRonaldo “All-time Stats”)
The present era is known as the era of developed football, the administration has imposed all the rules and regulations, and they also monitor each and every aspect of the game. This period is also known as the managerial era of football as the whole game depends on the strategies and planning of the manager of the team. Managers accurately monitor the practices and matches, and they know about each and everything about a player. They made such tactics due to which he can stop the attack of any team by assigning one or two players to stop and defend only one player. The players do what managers tell them irrespective of their intuitions and wishes. We have seen some successful managers which include Sir Alex Fergusen, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger and many more names (Grove “twenty successful managers”), who were hugely successful because of their tactical strategies and plan to set.
It ‘s hard to play in this era of managers and going away from the man marking established by the managers requires a lot of skill and talent, and to do it so often like Messi is an extraordinary thing. One can witness a lot of situations where managers from other clubs have tried best to stop Messi from scoring or getting the ball and for that they have assigned two or three players to stop him, but Messi has always managed to lose them almost every time. Whether it is world cup matches or champion’s league matches, one can witness such incidents everywhere, but Messi has never disappointed his fans and has destroyed all the teams. Arsene Wenger (Arsenal coach for the past 20 years) once lost a game to Barcelona and was asked what the reason behind the loss was? He said “MESSI.” And he also stated on many occasions that Messi is the best player in the history (Telegraph “Messi best player in the world-Arsene Wenger”). Each and every manager in the world has a headache while facing Messi and cannot find ways to stop him.
History shows a lot of players who have somewhere same statistics as Lionel Messi and have scored similar or more goals than Lionel Messi such as Diego Maradona, Pele, Gerd Muller, etc. These players were the best players in the history, and whenever a list is made regarding the best players, one can often see these players among the top five players. But there are some reasons behind the success of players mentioned above. Rules and regulations were different back then, and football was in its developing stage. At that time the game depended ultimately on the players, and there was a little role of the coaches contradictory to today’s time. Gerd Muller was a great scorer and has scored a lot of goals in his day due to the reasons mentioned above. He had the record for most goals in a single season of eighty-five goals in 1972, which was broken by Lionel Messi in 2012. Lionel Messi scored ninety-one goals in a season (Goal “Messi broke Muller’s record”). People compare Messi and Maradona quite often, but if one looks at statistics of both of them then it would be cleared that there is no comparison between them. Messi surpasses Maradona in every aspect of the game be it goals or assists or other moments of individual brilliance.
One thing that gives Maradona slight edge is that he has a world cup to his name which Messi is lacking considering both belong to the same country (Onefootball “Messi vs. Maradona Head-to-head”). Moreover, the outfield attitude and behavior is another contributing factor to the fame of Maradona which has nothing to do with football. The only player who is considered better than Messi and named as the best in the history is the Brazilian Pele. Pele had remained a goal scoring machine and scored twelve hundred plus goals in his career (which is a world record) but keep in mind one thing that his career lasted for twenty years (Guinness world records “Most career goals”). On the other hand, Messi’s career is only 13 years long. Pele only played in America and Brazil but remain unproven in Europe, playing for clubs like Santos and New York Cosmos. Another reason for Pele’s goals is that in his time, the rules were different from today and there was no offside rule back then, so he could stand behind the opponents’ defenders and would get the ball and score. Pele would not be able to hold in the current era of football and score so many goals. If Messi plays many games as Pele, then, he would easily break his record for the most goals in history considering the high level and intensity of football nowadays.
Lionel Messi’s statistics and skills show us that how dangerous he is to his opponents. He has been the best on the pitch and proved his worth on numerous occasions by scoring in the most difficult of situations such as the recent El Classic where he scored the goal in last twenty seconds of the game (Gonzalez “Messi’s historic walk-off goal we will never forget”). His greatness is visible from his statistics and his style of game which is very different from his contemporary players. He was destined to be the greatest considering his illness, but he was firm and determined to defeat it and came up more awesome than before. He took Fc Barcelona to the level which no one ever considered. He helped them win all the titles and ruled the domestic league for ten years and still ruling it. He also helped his club earn a lot of trophies and lessen the title difference between his club and their rival Real Madrid. He also helped his national side to reach the finals of big events but remained unlucky and could not win any. But he did win Olympic gold with his country in 2008 Beijing Olympics where Lionel Messi was only twenty years old scored in the final and regularly tormented the Nigerian defense (Olympic.org). After reading this research paper, a simple rational person would be easily able to understand the greatness of Lionel Messi. Messi is still at peak of his career and has a lot of football left in him but he is considered among the top players even now. His selfless playing style and his incredible goal scoring ability at the same time are such qualities that distinguish him from all the other current players and from those who ever played the game.
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Feature Image Credits: Salad Eespera