On Wednesday March 07, 2012, Lionel Messi scored five goals against Bayer Leverkusen as Barcelona advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It was a record-breaking performance by the man considered to be the best footballer in the game today. But is Messi the greatest football player of all time? Judging by his long list of accomplishments, many believe that he is. My response to them is: stop it.
No. Messi is not the greatest football player of all time. He will never have that honor until he wins the World Cup, the most coveted prize in international football. Until then, Messi should not even be mentioned in the same breath as Brazilian great Pele. When asked about Messi recently, Pele responded:
"When Messi's scored 1,283 goals like me, when he's won three World Cups, we'll talk about it."
Pele is 100% correct. Winning one World Cup makes you a legend. Winning three makes you the best of all time.
Who cares if Messi scored the most goals ever in a Champions League match? The team he did it against, Bayer Leverkusen, is not even the top team in Bundesliga. It is true that Messi can score fantastic goals. But even more important than the goals themselves is when he scores them. Messi has scored countless goals for Barcelona. But he has not had the same success with the Argentine National Team, particularly in the World Cup.
Messi made his World Cup debut in 2006, but he was unable to lead his team past the quarter-finals. In the 2010 World Cup, Argentina faltered again in the quarter-finals. Messi failed to score at all in this World Cup.
Is Messi even the best Argentine player of all time? His own countryman, Diego Maradona, had better success in the World Cup. He played great in the most important matches of his life. Maradona led Argentina to a World Cup victory in 1986 and was named the best player in the tournament. Maradona also led Argentina to the 1990 World Cup Final.
One could argue that international football is a team sport and that Messi cannot win the World Cup by himself. But this argument holds no water since Argentina is one of the top international teams in the world. Messi has plenty of talented players around him.
To be considered the greatest in any sport, a player must play their best in the most important moments. In international football, that means the World Cup. Until Messi wins a World Cup, we cannot consider him the greatest player of all time. And even if he does win a World Cup, he will still need two more before we can compare him to Pele - the greatest ever.
More from Edwin Torres:
Edwin Torres has been coaching competitive youth soccer since 2001. He enjoys coaching, playing and watching the game of soccer. For more articles, follow him on Twitter @FlipPoker.
- Lionel Messi