Even before Messi scored 91 goals in the calendar year of 2012, obliterating Gerd Müller’s previous record of 85, there were not many players in history who could claim to be as good as him. In the eyes of many, Messi has overtaken Pelé and his idol Diego Maradona to become the greatest player the world has ever seen. I foolishly backed against Lionel Messi to win the Balon d’or for a fourth year running and now I am forced to sell my stuff for cash. A harsh lesson learned though – never write off little Leo.
A long time has passed since the little lad from Rosario made his first appearance for Barcelona. Always having confidence in his own ability, Messi strived to achieve greatness and from the moment he made his debut at 17 years old, everybody knew he would be a star. Scoring his first senior goal on the 1st of May 2005 against Albacete, he showed his intelligence and ability when he put the ball into the net for the first time after great play from Ronaldinho – although it was wrongly called offside. Ronaldinho showed his confidence in the Argentinian again to put him through and, once again, Messi chipped it over the Albacete keeper for his first official goal.
If Barcelona had not taken Messi on as a youngster he may not have made it as a footballer. Due to a growth hormone deficiency, Leo had to have expensive treatment which his family could not have afforded, so Barcelona offered to pay it. The deficiency would not have stopped Messi’s growth but could have stopped him playing football if it was not dealt with.
Now 25, the Barça number 10 is playing better football than anybody on the planet. Winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or a 4th time on January 7th 2013, Messi has been as modest as ever. Upon being announced the winner, he said, “To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable, the fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.”
When moved to a ‘false 9’ position under Pep Guardiola, Messi’s true talents were discovered. Given a free license to roam on the pitch, he is not a typical centre-forward. Messi thinks for the team, not for himself and does his best to join in, creating moves for Barcelona as much as he finishes them.
Of the relatively small number of people I have spoken to that don’t like Messi, most say that he is successful due to Iniesta and Xavi. Together, the midfield maestros only assisted 14 of Messi’s 91 goals in 2012. Yes, they have played a huge part in his career and they have a part to play in a lot of Barça goals, but Leo Messi can do it himself. Bursting with talent, the 25 year old can beat a player with ease, create a chance from nothing and put it into the net with various difficult techniques that he makes look simple.
Nearly all of the best forwards can at times be considered selfish – Ronaldo, Benzema, Falcao – but Messi is different. If he doesn’t believe he can create a chance by himself, he can pass and instantly accelerate into a different area to give his team-mates an extra option.
With Cristiano Ronaldo as probably Messi’s closest personal rival, Barcelona’s record goalscorer knows that he has to push himself to the max every game. I believe that Messi’s greatest challenge is widening the gap between himself and Ronaldo, so that he can be compared to no other current player.
In my opinion, Lionel Andrés Messi is the greatest footballer that has ever played. He has every quality that a team wants in a forward. Barcelona are lucky to have Messi, and he is lucky to be part of such a brilliant side. He is the present and foreseeable future of Barcelona and the Argentina teams. Hopefully we will see more magic from the little magician.