If somebody told Lionel Messi when he was a kid, that he will one day become the world’s best footballer, he would have laughed outright with incredulity at that person. Suffering from a rare hormonal disorder, that stunted his development; his parents were forced to move to Spain for his treatment in 2000 as his local club River Plate could not afford to incur the expenses of his therapy, despite being touted as one of the club’s most exciting talents even at a tender age of twelve. Needless to say River Plate’s loss was Barcelona’s monumental gain, a decision which changed the course of the club’s history and saw the dawn of a new footballing messiah.
Cut to 2012 Messi’s statistics and achievements are mindboggling; he is a footballing juggernaut that seems to roll on and on. Three consecutive World Player Of The Year with an inevitable fourth in the offing, a glittering trophy cabinet of 18 titles have made people started to wonder –“Whether he is the greatest ever?”
Just at the age of 24, when most footballers are trying to find a foothold in their careers, Messi has already broken all previous club records and is rapidly setting colossal standards. He has already become his club’s leading goalscorer, effortlessly ambling past Ceasar Rodriguez’s tally of 232 goals. The stupendous feat did not surprise many as there was an air of inevitability about Messi achieving this mark. The fact that it took him forty odd less matches is a testament to the young man’s astounding talent and tenacity. His achievements stands out in an era of ultra-defensive football, where opposition managers are quick to figure out any chinks in one’s armour and take suitable tactical measures. What has astonished fans and pundits alike is Messi’s unbelievable run of form in a highly competitive La Liga, season after season he has been able to turn on the magic rendering his opposition helpless to do anything. Even the tactical nous of Jose Mourinho has failed to stem the tide.
He (Messi) is sat at the same table as the best in history because he was won very important titles, because he has three Ballon d'Or awards and he will be the one who wins the most because being the player he is he can achieve a lot more," Johan Cruyff was quoted as saying in the Barca's latest club magazine.
"Messi is by far the best player in the world," added the Dutchman, who won European titles with Barcelona as a player and coach and three World Player awards. "He is incomparable; he plays in a different league."
The only stench in Messi’s otherwise impeccable career is his strangely muted performance for the national team. He may be a darling of the Catalonians, but it is proving to be an uphill task for Messi to win over the hearts and minds of his compatriots.
Adored by the media and fans in Barcelona, where his exploits are rarely questioned, Messi faces a starkly different scenario back in Argentina. His two year barren patch for the national team seemed to be a strange incongruity beside his prolific goal scoring form for the club. However, most pundits asserts that Messi’s insipid displays for the national team are down to the collective failure of the national coaches and players around him. Whether it was Maradona or Jose Peckerman, none of them deployed Messi in a free flowing role that he so enjoys at Barcelona. Also the overbearing burden of a success starved football crazy nation, where he is increasingly looked upon as the second coming of Maradona who will singlehandedly lift the country to World Cup glory, is proving to be a gorilla on Messi’s back. What the general public in Argentina needs to understand that in the present day scenario it is inconceivable for a single man to take a team to a World Cup victory. Messi needs a proper coach like Carlos Bilardo (1986 World Cup winning coach of Argentina)and a proper team where other players are there to assist him. If Argentina manages to get this two things right, Messi may very well correct the wrongs of the previous two disappointing campaigns in 2006 and in 2010.
The Greatest Ever ?
Despite being of short stature , Messi’s amazing balance and exquisite close control with ball seemingly glued to his left feet , sets him apart from the rest of the pack. Coupled with his devastating turn of pace and clinical efficiency in front of the goal – makes Messi a mesmerizing spectacle. Football experts, peers and ex players all over the world, unanimously believe that if Messi continues in the same vein, he will undoubtedly become the best player in the game’s history surpassing greats like Pele, De Stefano and Maradona.
It is rightly said that Messi is perhaps the only player who plays better in real life than on PlayStation.