“He only does it with Barcelona.”
“He never shows up in important games with Argentina.”
“He needs Xavi and Iniesta to be successful.”
These were a few of the phrases thrown at Lionel Messi when things weren’t going well with Argentina. They were used as ways to diminish his accomplishments and – despite all of these achievements – he couldn’t be considered the best player of all time. He needed a title at the international level.
When he finally accomplished that feat and won the Copa America with Argentina last year, the goal posts were moved once again. He now needed to win the World Cup to be considered the greatest of all time.
Messi has now done that as well with Argentina winning the World Cup over France in penalties.
The debate for more than a decade now has been between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. That “debate,” if there ever was one, has now been put to rest. So has the one whether or not Messi is the best of all time.
The answer to that question is simple: Yes.
Lionel Messi is the best men’s soccer player of all time.
Winning the World Cup cemented that part of his legacy but he never really needed it. Even before the start of the tournament, many already considered him the best of all time.
The World Cup title should have finally put the argument to rest.
Messi’s legacy goes far beyond the titles he’s won at club and international level. It’s the way he plays the game.
There have been very few players that can generate that sense of anticipation Messi does whenever he has the ball. During his peak at Barcelona, anytime he got the ball, everyone expected him to produce a moment of magic. He certainly acquiesced on a number of occasions.
Opponents created game plans with the sole purpose of stopping Messi. Few, if any, were successful.
His highlight reel is too lengthy to describe. So much so that he made the amazing seem ordinary, perhaps to his detriment. He made the difficult look so routine there came a certain point where, believe it or not, it lost some luster. It became simply another thing Messi did.
That appreciation has been renewed at this stage of his career. At 35, he’s adapted his game to his age. At PSG, he may not be scoring as much but he is still their best playmaker. At Barcelona, he was both.
For those who watched him at Barcelona, they knew how good he was as a playmaker as well as a scorer. His assist in the game against the Netherlands is one of the lasting images of this World Cup. So too is his run against Joško Gvardiol in the match against Croatia.
After the final, a number of the Argentina players said they needed to suffer and knew how to suffer. That certainly was a trademark for Scaloni’s team throughout this World Cup. But it’s also an apt way to describe Messi’s career with the national team.
He suffered throughout the majority of his time with Argentina. They crashed out in penalties in 2006 against Germany and then were steamrolled by the Germans in 2010. In 2014, they came agonizingly close to winning it all but lost 1-0 to Germany in extra time. In 2018, the team was a mess and lost to France 4-3 in the Round of 16.
The 2022 World Cup began with Argentina stunned 2-1 by Saudi Arabia, leading to chants of “Where is Messi?”
When all was said and done, Messi was on the winner’s podium, lifting the World Cup trophy. It was icing on the cake for a storied career.
While he didn’t need it, the World Cup cemented his legacy forever. All the ifs, ands or buts are gone. Simply put: Lionel Messi is the G.O.A.T. The greatest of all time.