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The little magician

Patriot settles the debate once and for all. Lionel Messi is indeed the greatest footballer of the world. Here’s why

Eighty-four minutes of the first leg of the Champions League between Liverpool and Barcelona had passed. The Catalans were leading 2-0 in spite of a strong showing by the Reds. And then, Fabinho fouled a certain Barcelona player quite far outside the penalty area, and the referee awarded a free kick to the Catalans.

The same Barcelona player was to take the free kick from quite a distance from the goal. He struck the ball with his sublime left foot, and it swirled over the Liverpool wall, and then curled and dipped at the right moment to beat keeper Alisson Becker into the top right corner of the net. It was a perfect free kick, and it was taken by the none other than the magician that is Lionel Messi. Barcelona won the game 3-0.

That goal reinforces the fact that no one in the world is as skillful as the Argentine icon. Incidentally, Messi was declared the greatest footballer of all time by a poll conducted by one of the world’s leading football websites as recently as March 2019. But still, there are some detractors who question his status as a G.O.A.T.

Patriot analyses why Lionel Messi is indeed the greatest human being to have ever played the game.

Goal Machine

Messi’s biggest asset is perhaps the ability to score goals at will. The Aregentine magician has a total of 665 goals for club and country from 812 appearances — at a staggering scoring rate of 0.82 goals per game. For Barcelona alone, he is their all-time top scorer with a staggering 600 goals, at a rate of 0.88 per game. In fact, he holds the record for the most number of goals in a calendar year – 96 goals in 2012.

In the Spanis La Liga he has scored 417 goals — the most in history, while he has 112 goals in the Champions League. In terms of all-time records, the players ahead of him are Cristiano Ronaldo and Pele. Pele’s 757 professional goals is in itself a staggering record, but one must remember that he played almost all of his football in the Brazilian league, which has traditionally been weaker compared to Europe. Messi, however, has done it in Europe, in probably the most competitive football environment in history.

Messi also has 51 career hattricks – the highest for any player in history.

And yes, Ronaldo does have more goals than Messi, but his 686 goals have come from 958 appearances- with a rate of 0.72 per game. The Portuguese has scored 21 goals more than Messi, but he has played 146 more matches.

Completeness

Messi is arguably the most complete player in world football at the moment. His goals have come from a variety of positions. In fact, he has scored more goals from open play than any other player in history. He has scored tap-ins, rebounds, absolute stunners from far off and amazing curling free kicks – 48 of them.

Messi also has the highest number of assists of any footballer in history (271), which means he not only scores goals, but helps in scoring them. Add to that his amazing array of skills – vision, dribbling and ball contro — are amazing, no one comes close. In fact, Messi has the record of having more than 50 successful dribbles every year for the past 10 years, making him the best dribbler in history, even greater than fellow Argentine great Diego Maradona.

In terms of passing too, the Argentine has a keen eye. In fact, the Argentine has had more than seven successful key passes every 90 minutes for the last five years, making him the best passer in Europe at the moment.

Messi’s style of play too is very pleasing to the eye. With a short 5’7” frame, Messi is able to dribble and control the ball at his feet like no other.

Consistency and evolution

For the past decade Messi has shown incredible signs of consistency. In fact Messi became the first player in history to score more than 40 league goals each season for the past 10 seasons. He has been in the top two scorers every time in the past 10 seasons.

The general media narrative is that while Messi is god-gifted, Ronaldo is a product of hard work and dedication. But just talent won’t help you survive more than 10 seasons at the top. Messi has incredible temperament, and is very fit, owing to lesser number of injuries on field.

He has also adjusted himself on field as the years have gone by. From playing on the right wing, to slowly developing into a centre forward, and now pushed back as more of an attacking midfielder-cum -striker, the Argentine has developed his game from strength to strength, and at 31 years old, is still at the peak of his career, with no signs of stopping

Big game player

Lionel Messi always scores on the big occasions. He has played a total of 28 finals for Barcelona and scored 28 goals. Ronaldo, who is traditionally considered a better big game player, has scored a staggering 18 goals in 24 finals — still short of the little magician.

Messi is by far the highest scorer in El Clasico ties. Against Real Madrid, he has scored 26 goals, which is eight El Clasico goals more than the people tied in second with 18: Alfredo Di Stefano and Cristiano Ronaldo. The four opponents that Messi has scored the most goals against are Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia, traditional giants of the Spanish La Liga.

Add to all these incredible statistics, Messi has received more accolades than any other footballer. He has won 10 La Ligas, four Champions Leagues, five Ballon D’ors, a World Cup golden ball and five European Golden shoes. All these prove that Messi is indeed the greatest footballer of all time, and is indeed the god of football.