Is Messi overrated?
Following Lionel Messi’s 5 goals against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, critics and ex-players alike have been quick to lavish praise over him and crown him the best player to have […]
Following Lionel Messi’s 5 goals against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, critics and ex-players alike have been quick to lavish praise over him and crown him the best player to have ever played the game.
While there is little doubt he is a fantastic player and up there with the best, is it not a premature step too far to say he is the best ever?
Pelé, triple World Cup winner and Brazilian record goalscorer certainly thinks so:
When Messi’s scored 1,283 goals like me, when he’s won three World Cups, we’ll talk about it. He’s a great player for Barcelona, but when he plays for Argentina he doesn’t have the same success.
Harsh perhaps, but it raises a fair point. Whilst Diego Maradona helped a poor Argentina side to win a World Cup single handed (no pun intended), Messi is yet to shine on the international stage.
A record of 22 goals in 67 matches is respectable, there is no doubt about that. However is it fair to say he hasn’t performed to his own high standards where it counts, at the major tournaments. Despite having the Argentina team built around him at the 2010 World Cup, he failed to score, as the Argies crashed out in the quarters to Germany. He didn’t fare much better at the 2011 Copa America either, again failing to score as Uruguay beat Argentina in the quarters on penalties.
So all this begs the question; is Messi made to look good by the superb players around him at Barcelona? The current Argentina side cannot be called mediocre but they are not a patch on Barça by any stretch of the imagination. Is he just the icing on the cake? Can he turn big games around when the chips are down and carry unremarkable teams to great things à la Zidane and Maradona?
At this point it is only fair to remind yourself that Messi is only 24, and probably still has another decade at the top level. He still has the 2014 and 2018 World Cups to prove to the world he has what it takes, and his doubters wrong.
At club level he is unplayable, it’s as simple as that. With English clubs faring badly and Spanish clubs doing well in European competition, the age old excuse “La Liga is a poor league” suddenly doesn’t hold as much water. He has scored 188 goals in his last 201 games, and his quintet against Leverkusen prompted Falcao, the £35m Atlético Madrid striker, to say:
Sorry, was that a Champions League game or Messi playing on the PlayStation?
Fair to say an accurate summary of what was a remarkable team performance, in which Messi particularly shone.
If Messi can maintain his form, and shine at the World Cup in 2014 on his home continent as he does for Barça, it will be difficult to look past him as the best player ever to have played the game. Until then, however, it is a disputed title.