Is Messi the best of all time? If not, where does he rank among the all-time greats?

Many people address this question as if it were a matter of opinion. Well, it is not. Most questions like this can be addressed in a pretty scientific way by analyzing the data. And, if you do that, the answer is pretty clear: Yes, the best football player of all time is Lionel Messi.

If you don’t believe my words, take a look at the very detailed analysis that FiveThirtyEight did during the last World Cup: Lionel Messi Is Impossible

Lionel Messi outperforms everyone, and in particular Cristiano Ronaldo, who appears mostly as second in many statistics in the following aspects:

  • Overall Scoring Production
  • Shooting Efficiency
  • Goal percentage from any given distance
  • Unassisted Goal Efficiency
  • One-on-one success rate
  • Assists per game
  • Number of long balls played per game
  • Through-ball passes
  • Passes by forwards
  • Value added per offensive action
  • Goals plus assists per balls played
  • Plays defended per opponent possession

Given his current performance in Barcelona this year, I am pretty sure the stats are even higher now.

So, no, Messi being the best is not an opinion, it is a fact proven by hard data.

Messi in the 2014 World Cup

Some people will argue that Messis has had a poor performance with the Argentinian national team and in particular in the 2014 World Cup. I also personally agree that Messi did not play his best in the World Cup. Still, he came out of the group stages as being rated number 1 by many (see World Cup 2014 in statistics: the 10 players who excelled in the group stage for example).  So even in this relatively negative part of his playing, he stands out as one of the best

Messi vs. Maradona or Pele

Other people argue that either Maradona or Pele were better players than Messi. As for the comparison to Pele, the answer is that we don’t know because there is not enough data to make a fair comparison. But, we do know for sure he is better than Maradona (see Messi Is Better Than Maradona, But Maybe Not Pele).

Again, Messi outperforms Maradona in most dimensions. Some people will argue that Maradona’s stats are worse because he played in worse teams (like Naples). That is nonsense. It is similar to saying that his stats were worse because he took more drugs. Maradona made stupid decisions in his life and professional career that ended up affecting his results. That is actually part of his not being the best.

And, if data is not enough for you… take a look at the following video:

Messi is the best because of many reasons. When you say the best I’m not sure if you mean currently or in the history of the game, but I have been following him ever since he debuted and from what I have seen in my 26 years, he is the best in history.

I saw Ronaldinho and I always thought he would be the best, but he was so inconsistent and he only lasted four years at the top of his game. Messi has lasted more than a decade and he has broken so many records during this time frame. Having said this, even if Messi hadn’t broken all the records that he has broken, he would still be considered one of the best, if not the best player in history.

Football is a lot more than stats and you would have to follow him for many years to know what I mean. Some of the things that make me think he is the best are the following.

  1. His low center of gravity allow him to change direction much faster than other players. Really, his change of direction is amazing.
  2. His dribbling skills are exceptional. He can dribble at an incredible speed, with the ball almost glued to his feet.
  3. His finishing is as good if not better than the best strikers that the game has had i.e., Ronaldo De Assis, Cristiano Ronaldo, Torres, Van Nisteroy, Rivaldo, Eto, Adriano, Henry, and I can go on and on.
  4. Believe it or not, he has great vision and when he loses speed, which he will, he will still be an elite player. He can assist and control the game at whatever pace is needed. He is a great assist man and can do the same things that Xavi and Iniesta can do.
  5. He single handily can win games for his team when he is on form. The closest that I can compare him to is Michael Jordan. Jordan single handily won games for the Bulls in clutch situations and important games. Messi has done this and this is an amazing feat when you consider that he plays in a sport that is considered to be a “team” oriented sport.

Messi’s goal vs Bayern where he literally breaks Boatengs ankles is something that you just dont see. Messi goal vs Real Madrid in the semifinals where he takes on five Real Madrid Players is something that you dont just see. Messis goal vs Getafe where he takes like five or six defenders is something that only Maradona did.

Maradona was Maradona only sometimes, Messi is Maradona everyday is a quote which shows just how consistent this player really is.

Sorry to make this a long post but I am so passionate about soccer and want people to know that they are witnessing something special with him and it is very likely that we will NEVER see a player like him again. You better enjoy him while you can as he is already 28 years of age so hes not going to last forever.

Lets Begin…. 🙂
                                         WORLD RECORDS

  • Most FIFA Ballon d’Or awards: 4
  • Guinness World Records title for the most official goals in a calendar year: 91 goals (2012)
  • Most goals in a calendar year (including club friendlies): 96 goals (2012)
  • Most international goals in a year (club and national team):25 goals (2012) (shared with Vivian Woodward & Cristiano Ronaldo)
  • Most consecutive league matches scored in: 21 matches (33 goals)
  • First footballer ever to score consecutively against all teams in a professional league
  • Most appearances in the top 3 candidates for the Ballon d’Or: 8 times (2007-2014)
  • Youngest player to win 3 Ballon d’Or awards: 24 years, 6months and 17 days.
  • Most appearances in the FIFPro World XI: 8 times (2007-2014) (shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)
  • Most FIFA Club World Cup Golden Balls: 2 (2009, 2011)
  • Only footballer to score 60+ goals in all competitions in 2 seasons (shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)

                                       EUROPEAN RECORDS

  • Most league goals scored in a season: 50 goals
  • Most goals scored in a season (club): 73 goals
  • Most goals scored in a year (club): 79 goals
  • Most European Cup top scorer awards: 5
  • Most hat-tricks in a single Champions League season: 2 hat-tricks (shared with Mario Gomez and Luiz Adriano)
  • Most hat-tricks in UEFA Champions League: 5 hat-tricks
  • Highest scorer in a UEFA Champions League game: 5 goals (shared with Luiz Adriano)
  • Only player to score in 23 different cities in the European Cup
  • Only player to finish Champions League top scorer in 4consecutive seasons (2008/09 – 2011/12)
  • Most goals scored in Champions League history: 77 goals(shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)

                                         SPANISH RECORDS

  • Most away goals scored in La Liga history
  • Leading goalscorer over a season in home games: 46 goals (in 2011/12)
  • Leading goalscorer over a season in home league games:35 goals (in 2011/12)
  • Leading goalscorer over a season in away league games:24 goals (in 2012/13)
  • Leading goalscorer in the second half of a league season:28 goals (in 2011/12)
  • Most opponents scored against in a single season: 19(2012/13) (Shared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldo)
  • Most goals scored in La Liga in a season: 50 goals
  • Most La Liga hat-tricks in a season: 8 hat-tricks (shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)
  • Most league matches scored in in a single season: 27 games (2012/13) (Shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)
  • Most home league matches scored in in a single season:16 games (in 2011/12)
  • Most away league matches scored in in a single season:15 games (in 2012/13)
  • Most goals scored in the Supercopa de España: 10 goals
  • Youngest player to score 200 La Liga goals: 25 years
  • Most consecutive La Liga matches scored in: 21 matches, 33 goals (2012/13)
  • Most consecutive away league matches scored in: 13 matches, 20 goals (2012/13)
  • Most goals scored in El Clásico matches: 21 goals
  • Most goals scored in La Liga El Clásico matches: 14 goals(shared with Alfredo di Stefano)
  • Most hat-tricks in El Clásico matches: 2 hat-tricks
  • First footballer to score more than 25 goals in five consecutive La Liga seasons (shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)
  • First footballer to score more than 25 goals in six consecutive La Liga seasons (shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)
  • Most hat-tricks in Spanish football: 32 hat-tricks
  • Most assists in La Liga: 111 assists
  • All time highest goalscorer in La Liga: 286 goals
  • Youngest player to reach 250 league goals
  • First player to score 40+ goals in 3 La Liga seasons (shared with Cristiano Ronaldo)

                                           BARCELONA RECORDS

  • All time Barcelona top scorer in all games: 440 goals
  • All time Barcelona top scorer in official competitions: 412 goals
  • Barcelona top scorer in La Liga: 286 goals
  • Barcelona top scorer in European competitions: 78 goals
  • Barcelona top scorer in international competitions: 82 goals
  • Most hat-tricks in official competitions for Barcelona: 32 hat-tricks
  • Most hat-tricks in La Liga for Barcelona: 24 hat-tricks
  • Most hat-tricks scored for Barcelona in a single La Liga season: 8 hat-tricks
  • Most goals scored in a single Champions League season:14 goals (20122/12)
  • Most goals scored in Derbi Barceloní (Catalan derby): 12 goals
  • First Barcelona player to be La Liga top scorer 3 times
  • Most Champions League trophies: 3 (shared with Valdes, Xavi, Puyol & Iniesta)
  • One of 2 players to have scored in 6 different official competitions in one season (Copa del Rey, La Liga, UEFAChampions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup, completed on 4 January 2012) (shared with Pedro)
  • Only player to have scored and assisted in 6 different official competitions in one season (Copa del Rey, La Liga, UEFA Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup, completed on 12 January 2012)
  • The first Barcelona player to surpass 30 league goals in 2 [consecutive] La Liga seasons
  • The first Barcelona player to surpass 30 league goals in 3 [consecutive] La Liga seasons
  • The first Barcelona player to surpass 30 league goals in 4 [consecutive] La Liga seasons
  • The first Barcelona player to win 2 European GoldenShoes
  • The first Barcelona player to win 3 European Golden Shoes
  • The first Barcelona player to surpass 50 goals in a season
  • The first Barcelona player to surpass 50 goals in 2 seasons (did it consecutively)
  • The first Barcelona player to surpass 50 goals in 3 seasons (did it consecutively)
  • The first Barcelona player to surpass 50 goals in 4 seasons

                                                  ARGENTINA RECORDS

  • Most goals scored in friendlies: 24 goals
  • Most goals scored in one FIFA World Cup qualification: 10 goals
  • Most goals scored in a year (national team): 12 goals(2012) (shared with Gabriel Batistuta)
  • Youngest player to have scored at the FIFA World Cup Finals): 18 years and 357 days old in 2006 against Serbia and Montenegro
  • Youngest player to have reached 100 caps in CONMEBOL history (27 years, 361 days old)

Simply mesmerizing isn’t it……………….

Definitely, he’s miles ahead of anyone. The fact that he does not have a World Cup yet does not mean anything as his team bottled the 4 finals he single-handedly carried them to. Now he scored a hat-trick in a crucial game to get Argentina to the World Cup. Again, single-handed carrying.

With Barcelona, he has won everything, and broken almost all records. He reached his 600th goal recently (took him 149 games less than the fastest one who reached that) at the age of 30, meaning he can easily get to 700–800 even if he has a dip in form.

He dishes out assists better than almost all midfielders, and his passing ability is as good as the greatest MF’s of all time.

There is absolutely nothing you can day about his dribbling ability. He glides past 3–4 players nonchalantly, and he does it every game.

He takes free-kicks as well as Juninho used to, and maybe even better as he already has 6 in this season which is almost half-way through.

Messi seems to complete every single aspect of the game, and do it at the level (and even higher) of the greatest who ever did it. That’s what makes him the real GOAT.

I wouldn’t bother talking so much about not having any trophies with Argentina because even though it’s supposed to be a team effort, he still gets them to finals, and his team mates completely screw him over every single game. The most obvious example would be the several open misses Higuain and Palacio had during the World Cup Final after he set them up time and time again against Germany. Argentina could have slaughtered Germany that day, but it ends with with a 1–0 Deutsche win with a Götze goal.

YES, definitely in the modern era.

NOTE: When I write “football” in the following text, I mean Association Football (aka World Football) or soccer, as it is called in the United States. I do not mean American Football.

I am admittedly biased (take a look at my credential). However, as others have alluded, it is possible to approach this question objectively.

I will attempt to build an assessment of Lionel Messi employing only numerical metrics and other ideas that are impervious to opinion (i.e. they tend to not change from person to person). The reader will be the judge of whether I succeed, but, at any rate, I will do my best to avoid conflating fact and my opinion/conjecture.

In any question about Lionel Messi’s caliber relative to the greatest players of all time, there is inevitably a discussion of Cristiano Ronaldo. For the better part of the last decade, Messi and Ronaldo have monopolized (duopolized?) the awards for best performers on club level. They have also left personal award ceremonies in a blaze of glory, winning the past 9 (!!) FIFA Ballons d’Or (which has split into two separate awards: the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or by France Football). Only then-Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was able to break the domination by Messi and Ronaldo in the award for Europe’s top scorer in the 2013/14 season, and even then he shared the award with joint-winner Ronaldo. So — long story short — they have both won a tremendous number of awards, albeit through a time marred by alleged (and, in most cases, proven) corruption in the entities of highest authority in World Football, FIFA and UEFA.

Therefore, the metrics of Ronaldo’s and Messi’s on-the-pitch performances are more important and relevant in answering this question. It is useful to first examine the roles played (i.e on-pitch positions occupied) by Ronaldo and Messi throughout their respective careers.

Cristiano Ronaldo has played for three clubs in his professional career: Sporting Lisbon (through 2002/03), Manchester United (from 2003/04 through 2008/09), and Real Madrid (from 2009/10 to the present). In the former two clubs, he played almost exclusively as a left winger. He was for a long time under the tutelage of the man with the most illustrious record of any manager in the English Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson, who has repeatedly deemed Ronaldo the most versatile player he has ever seen. At Real Madrid, particularly since the 2013/14 season, he has increasingly operated as a striker, if not a target man. At 31, though Ronaldo is in physically phenomenal shape, he has been forced to alter his game to preserve his goalscoring productivity, because he naturally no longer has the energy to occupy the demanding position on the left wing.

Lionel Messi is one of the rare one-club men among the elite players of World Football. He has been playing for Barcelona’s first team since the 2005/06 season. He started out as a right winger and played there through the 2009/10 season, paired in the forward line with various high-profile strikers, including Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, and for a short time Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Then, between 2010/2011 and 2014/2015, when Barcelona had a vacancy in the striker position, he played as a “False 9.” This was one of the hallmarks of the era of Pep Guardiola in Barcelona, which was the most successful tenure of any manager in any club of all time. Since the arrival of Luis Suarez in the 2014/15 season, Messi has switched back to the right wing, but it is common to see him drift into a central-attacking-midfield (CAM) position to help attenuate the defensive formation of opposing teams.

Let’s take a look at some statistics, then.

  • Goalscoring (all time):
    From the beginning of his career to now, Ronaldo has scored 573 goals in 830 matches for his club teams (Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, and Real Madrid) and his national team (Portugal), yielding a goals-to-games ratio of .69 goals/game. This is close 2 goals every 3 games.

    From the beginning of his career to now, Messi has scored 538 goals (incidentally, this number happens to be the name of a website that did a superb statistical analysis of Messi’s performances) in 673 games for his club team (Barcelona) and his national team (Argentina). This is close to 4 goals every 5 games.

  • Assisting (all time):
    From the beginning of his career to now, Ronaldo has completed 189 assists in 830 games for club & country.

    From the beginning of his career to now, Messi has completed 222 assists in 673 games for club & country.

Messi has been more productive in terms of assists and goals throughout his career.

It is a matter of little dispute that a point (i.e. a goal) in football means much more than scoring a point in other sports that take account of similar tallies for players. For example, think points and assists in basketball; whereas it is not uncommon to see one or even no goals in a match of football, it is almost unheard of to see a basketball game in which both teams do not score at least double-digit points. Therefore, the play among teammates that leads up to a goal (called lead-up play) is of arguably more consequence than the action of scoring a goal itself. Several metrics exist to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of players’ contributions to lead-up play: pass completion rate, dribble attempt and completion rate, key passes per game, etc.

Let’s take a look at some of them (statistics from http://whoscored.com and Football Statistics, Live Scores, Results, News, Analysis).

  • Dribbles
    A dribble in football is the successful progression (forward movement) past 1 or more opposing players.

    Lionel Messi is often cited as the best dribbler of all time. This is statistically a supportable claim. Messi successfully completes 4.9 dribbles (some of them simply mind-boggling) per game, and has maintained that for the past 7 seasons.

    Ronaldo completes a more modest 1.9 dribbles per game. The number was closer to 2.5 dribbles per game prior to the 2013/14 season.

  • Key Passes
    Key passes are passes that do not qualify as assists (because they are not the final passes before a goal or a shot) but nonetheless contribute significantly to the lead-up play.

    Messi completes about 2.2 key passes per game, though that number has tended toward 3 key passes per game in recent seasons. Followers of Barcelona’s play will recognize Messi’s signature right-to-left arced aerial through passes that often traverse upwards of 40 yards and lead to a goalscoring chance.

    Ronaldo completes about 1.8 key passes per game, though that number has tended toward 1.5 key passes per game recent seasons. This is attributable to the transition in his position from left winger to center forward/striker.

  • Chances Created
    Chances created are passes or pass-dribble combinations that lead to a goalscoring chance for another teammate that is not converted.

    Messi has averaged about 70 chances created per season (he actually hit a spectacular height of 93 chances created in the 2014/15 season) over the past five season. This is well over 2 chances created per game.

    Ronaldo has averaged about 55 chances created per season (hitting a high of 73 chances created in 2014/15) over the past five seasons. This is slightly under 2 chances created per game.

  • Pass Completion
    It is fair to say that a majority of the passes that Messi and Ronaldo attempt either play the ball forward or are intended to create a goalscoring chance. So, it is useful to also see how accurate they are in their passing.

    Ronaldo has averaged about 80% pass accuracy over the past five season. He only misplaces one out of every five passes.

    Even with more key passes per game (key passes are much riskier to make than traditional passes), Messi manages to one-up Ronaldo with an average of 82% pass accuracy over the past five seasons.

  • Duels won
    A duel is a circumstance in which two players approach a “loose” ball (i.e. a ball not in possession of any player). These can be both on the ground or in the air.

    Messi has averaged about a 61% duel success rate over the past five seasons, with a 75% success rate on the ground and a 52% success rate in the air. You will notice that 61% is not the average of these two numbers; this means Messi attempts fewer aerial duels.

    Ronaldo has averaged about a 57% duel success rate over the past five seasons, with an 80% success rate in the air and 49% success rate on the ground. Again, you will notice that that 57% is not the average of these two numbers; this means that Ronaldo attempts (far) fewer on-the-ground duels. This is largely due to his teammates’ tendency to play lofted balls and crosses into Ronaldo, who does an exceptional job of leveraging his stature to win aerial duels.

In build-up play, Messi has more frequent and meaningful contributions.

I hope at this point you will see that there is considerable statistical evidence stacked against Cristiano Ronaldo, particularly when you consider Messi is two years younger than Ronaldo. Messi is clearly the better player in this generation.

One of the best arguments to the contrary is Ronaldo’s triumph in the Euro 2016 tournament with his national team, which occurred in the same summer as Argentina’s 3rd consecutive loss in a major final and Messi’s subsequent decision to quit the national team (he has since revoked his retirement decision). The inability to win a major trophy with Argentina is a significant blemish on an otherwise impeccable trophy-winning run for Lionel Messi. But, let’s go beyond face value and deconstruct.

Messi, with Argentina, has been a finalist (second place) in four major tournaments: The Copa America 2007, The World Cup 2014, The Copa America 2015, and The Copa America Centenario in 2016. In the World Cup 2014 and Copa America Centenario, he has performed exceptionally well, all things considered. He was the Golden Ball Player (best player) in the World Cup 2014 (he also won 4 Man of the Match Awards). Notably, the only goal that Argentina was able to score in the knockout rounds of the World Cup 2014 was assisted by Messi, after a mazy dribble-run in which he passed 5 Swiss defenders. In the Copa America Centenario, Messi had the highest number of assists and and the highest number of goals of any player, despite missing the first two games of the tournament. He did, however, have a poor match in a Final, culminating in a penalty miss during a shootout versus reigning champions Chile.

Ronaldo has had, statistically speaking, a similar level of performance with his national team, though not without his fair share of bumps along the way. The national team was infamously knocked out of the World Cup 2014 in the group stage. However, Ronaldo did perform very well in the Euro 2016 tournament, most notably inspiring his team to a 3–3 draw versus Hungary to secure progression to the knockout rounds. Despite winning only one match in the whole tournament in normal time, Portugal was able to win the entire tournament. This speaks to the character in the team and resilience of the squad even when the odds were stacked against them. However, Messi has also had more-than-stellar performances in the earlier stages of major tournaments, only to be let down by his performance in the Final. This is why it becomes relevant that Ronaldo only played 15 minutes of the Euro 2016 Final, touching the ball only 8 times. He was forced to come off the pitch due to a recurrence of a knee problem. Therefore, when evaluating Ronaldo’s tournament performance, it is necessary to recognize that he had little to no bearing on the team’s win in the Final. When specifying our consideration in that way, Ronaldo’s advantage in terms of international glory is substantially, if not entirely, diminished.

And I am going to violate my self-imposed rule to not incorporate opinion here (just this once). Messi’s superiority at club level and, statistically speaking, similar level of performance on the national team make him the overall better player by a significant margin.

You will notice that I have not addressed the “greatest of all time” aspect of this question. This is because the modern era of football is so different and inherently not comparable to previous generations. First, the refereeing has changed to be more sensitive to fouls and the rules have tightened on what constitutes a fair tackle. Second, the defensive discipline and tactical acuity of modern teams mean that there is more of a “chess game” element to each match. This corresponds to the significant hikes in pay (even when you take into account inflation and the generally more monetized nature of the game) and near-celebrity status for successful managers. And finally, conditioning and treatment is MUCH better in the modern game. I doubt you can make the “greatest of all time” assessment without delving into significant conjecture, which I decided to avoid at the beginning.

Ok I’ve read through and seen a lot of B.S about Messi’s not winning the world cup as a reason for him not to be great

So let’s look at some of those we call GREAT.

ZIDANE: Probably one of the most graceful players to have played the game. Super talented with an eye for goal. Won the world cup but in doing that we completely forget players like Makhalele, Thuram or Henry. These were fantastic players.

MARADONA: Undeniably a great player but he had Pedro Pasculli, Jorge Valdano, Ricardo Giusti and Hector Enrique amongst others

PELE: Amazing baller here but ask many Brazilians and they’d tell you about Garincha.

Messi, could have won the world cup IF Higuan had decided not to miss glaring one vs one chances.

All i’m saying is that none of these greats ever played against the other 11 men by themselves. They had a solid defensive side and equally as good goal keepers and even coach.

It’s not Messi’s fault that someone couldn’t play and wrap up the game for his side.

Anyways, by their fruits you shall know them – Look at the stats.

You’ll be hard pressed to find any other player in history with the sort of stats he has “except for using the head” which is cos of his diminutive size.

SO YEAH……
HOW DOES HE COMPARE?

i’d ask instead, how do they compare to him?

With recently concluded Ballon D’Or, we are at that time again when Lionel Messi is acclaimed as the best there ever was, the greatest footballer in the history of the game, paling Pele and Maradona. There seems almost an inevitable certainty recently, that once Lionel accomplishes yet another feat. It’s getting as Deja vu as observing Real Madrid fire their manager.

He has provided innumerable moments of wonder, of gasps and exclamations of delight, of wondering just how he managed to do that. And for that, he is and will always be, one of the greatest players the world has ever had the privilege of seeing. He has captured four Champions League Trophies, seven La Ligas, a Copa America and is of course, a World Cup finalist. Without a doubt, the greatest footballer of our generation at the moment. But the greatest ever? That’s a pivotal stretch. Every admirer and detractor of Messi knows his record at international tournaments. So I’m not going to highlight the (lack of) figures here. It’s merely what I would consider,that should comprise of a player who has the honour to be named as the best ever.

In terms of skills, there’s nothing that Maradona and Pele have done that Messi has not. In terms of goals, goal ratios, consistency, technique, flair there isn’t much distinction. However, the value that these two players possessed and the immortalization of their legends is very different to that of Messi’s. Maradona and Pele stood for something, something which is not yet in Messi’s realms as of now. Maradona, giant of a player who did not let the failings of his team detract him from his acquisition of football’s biggest trophy, who single-handedly, inspired a mediocre Argentinian side to World Cup glory.  Unbridled aggression, a loathing of fate, he was the icon of every adolescent, by making the world bend to your will baring aside his off-field troubled, unscrupulous, arrogant behaviour. I believe, in comparison, Lionel Messi has never had that impact or influence on his national team. He has been worthy of emulation and reverence for his work ethic, his team play, his humility and genius. Messi, is a lot closer in comparison to Pele. Pele was the fulcrum of an extremely strong Brazilian team featuring the likes of Garrincha, Dida and Gilmar and later on playing with Gerson, Jairzinho, Torres, Rivelino and Tostao, which according to footie historians is touted as the greatest side in the history. But even amongst all those magicians he was the best, a cut-above the rest. He was born to play and his glorious journey is no less than a fairy tale virtuously encapsulating the greatest prize of all, not once but twice. I refuse to classify him as a player. He’s beyond that.

Messi came closest in achieving the same storyline in 2014. He was whisker away of guiding a promising Argentinian side to put their hands on a World Cup trophy after what feels like an eternity. Had he taken his two clear-cut chances in the final, he would rightly have been acclaimed as the best in the World ever. There was even the perfect opportunity in the 120 minute, with Germany conceding a free kick from a close distance that had, on numerous occasions, previously proved to be no obstacle to the little magician. BUT HE MISSED.

I would say Messi is definitely the best player out on the pitch right now. He is the best club player of all-time based on pure statistics. I do not think he is the best footballer of all time, mostly due to his poor International performance.

He has won tons of awards, titles and cups. However, the difference in his goals per game statistic is staggering.

  • Goals per Game with Barcelona – 0.86 (tied for 3rd in UEFA all-time)
  • for reference, Pele’s is 0.98 and Ronaldo’s is 0.68 on various clubs
  • Goals per Game with Argentina – 0.47
    • for reference, Pele’s is 0.93 and Ronaldo’s is 0.63 with Brazil

    Note the variation in Messi’s data points vs Pele’s and Ronaldo’s.

    Being on a team like Barcelona, which has the 4th largest payroll of any professional sports organization in the world, means you are going to be surrounded by top-notch players. Messi flourishes in this environment.

    On the International level, Messi is unable to produce those unbelievable offensive statistics with a solid Argentinian team. I was surprised they made it to the last World Cup final. They won every match by 1 goal (even against Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria).

    Messi has been on Barcelona his entire career and joined them when they were on the top of the league table. His incredible football skills and athletic ability combined with Barca’s stellar roster have given him one of the best club football careers of all time. However, his inability to command an Argentinian team with several talented players and maintain his prolific scoring in International matches leads many people to believe that he is just not as complete a player as Pele or [insert other top 5 player].

    Leonel Messi is the best because of a potent combination of speed, agility, technical ability, instincts, and his brilliant footballing mind.

    He has greater acceleration than anyone else on the field. That, in combination with exceptional speed, makes his dribbling a force to be reckoned with. Beating defenders is relatively easy for him because of his speed and agility, but also because of his brilliant body feints. He hesitates, accelerates, decelerates, changes direction, turns, or drops his shoulder to throw defenders off. Defenders simply don’t know what he is going to do next. That is what makes him so dangerous. His dribbling is the main reason why people consider him the best, but he is much more than that.

    Of course, he has fantastic technical ability. His dribbling technique of taking a lot of touches allows him to keep close control of the ball at high speeds. Furthermore, he can pass, shoot, or hit a long ball across the field with extreme ease. There isn’t any hole in his technical game.

    But many players have technical ability equal to Messi, if not better. What sets him apart from these players is his vision on the field. He sees things that other players don’t, opportunities many others wouldn’t even consider. He makes passes that most players would never think to even try. I think his passing game is highly underrated. He’s actually extremely unselfish. I’ve seen him make through balls that rival the ones Xavi Hernandes makes. Messi isn’t just a dribbler, but a passer that can provide assists for his team.

    Beyond the assists, he has scoring instincts. He has natural scoring ability. For some reason or another, Messi knows how to get the ball past the keeper better than anyone else. When he gets a scoring opportunity, he finishes it. End of story. His conversion ratio of chances created to goals scored is phenomenal. And when it comes to determining who is the best in the world, the number of goals you score is something that is given a lot of weight. If you score more goals than anyone else, people will start to believe you are the best.

    Lastly, I think the players around him are a large reason why Messi became the best. Without the likes of Iniesta and Xavi providing him with stellar service, he probably wouldn’t have reached the very heights of football. Barcelona is a team that is suited perfectly to his style of play. The players around him make him better. Messi likes to play slowly and methodically for a large portion of the game, then explode in a fury of activity. You’ll see him walking a lot when he plays for Barcelona because they have possession for so long. He gets to save his energy for when there is a scoring opportunity. But when he plays for Argentina, he struggles a little bit more because the style of play is different. He doesn’t have brilliant passers like Iniesta on his team anymore, and more running is required of him. Barcelona’s possession-based style is tailored towards utilizing Messi to his full potential; the Argentinian national team really isn’t.

    To me, he is just a pleasure to watch. Professional football is about entertaining the fans, and Messi does just that. He transcends the exorbitant amount of goals he scores. Messi is a much more special player than just a goal-scorer. He’s a creator, an artist, and a footballing genius. That is why he is considered the best.

    Why Messi is such a great footballer!

    Messi! The name speaks volumes! Dubbed as one of the greatest footballer ever, the man who used to serve tea at a shop to support his football training, one of the greatest the world has ever seen, the man who has scored 4 goals in his 3 games this world cup is no doubt the match winner, a man we would always look up to. But what makes him one of the best footballer the world has ever seen. Well the usual answers are always there – Hard work, dedication, perseverance, attitude, belief and so on.. But this one video says a lot more than that without the use of any of those cliched words. If you know Messi or even heard of him, I would strongly urge you to watch this video and if you are left uninspired even after that, then I will consider this my personal failure!

    I am sure you would have seen a thousand videos which hails Messi, shows you his goals and even talks about how great a footballer he is but this, this one is special, it makes you want to watch it. Do go through the first 2 mins, it is the best video I think we have shared this week.

    What makes Messi such a great success? Why is he so special, what does he have that no one has. The strangest answer I have come across is this

    MESSI IS A DOG!

    That no wonder caught my attention and here I am writing about it. I was wondering why someone would compare a man like Messi to a dog?! Well the answer was simple, a dog never complains, a dog with a bone is known for its focus, it does what it is expected to, no complaints whatsoever.

    In an era of football where we have seen people dive for no reason and cry foul just for the advantage of getting a penalty or a free kick, a game where a few people compromise on values to get an undue advantage, where people try to get attention and an undue edge, here is a man who doesn’t move a finger even when he legitimately can. The compilation must have hundreds of goals in short clips, clips where people pull him down by his shirt, kick his legs, dive against him, be violent to him but Messi never budges, his focus is just the ball, his game the way he knows it and nothing else.

    All through the video, you can see him and his focus just the ball and nothing else, everyone around him dives, everyone cries foul but this man never responds, he just keeps his eye on the ball and the goal and does what he does best, win the game and our hearts.

    We have had people talk about determination, focus, hard work and what not, but to see someone in action, this video tells about it all, Messi is no wonder one of the best footballers ever and this video in short is the best explanation I can come up with for why :).
    Do tell me how you like it

    No. Not at all.

    The best football player of all time will always be Pele, with Maradona being a close contender.

    It is funny that a player who plays in the modern era in a league which is not known for its defensive acumen, and against defenders mostly who play like mindless robots, can be considered the best ever.

    Pele played against Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore, Burgnich and players of those ilk.

    Maradona played against Baresi, Aldair, Ruggeri, Tony Adams, Maldini, Costacurta, Kohler and the kind.

    Ronaldo and Zidane played against Maldini, De Boer, Nesta, Reiziger, Stam, Ayala, Hierro and the likes.

    Even AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini has revealed the three players he hated to come up against, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are not among them. – “My toughest opponents would be Diego Maradona, Ronaldo, who was phenomenal in his two years at Inter, and Zinedine Zidane

    Imagine what the likes of Pele, Garrincha, Maradona, Di Stefano, George Best, Cruyff, Puskas, Gerd Muller, Romario, Ronaldo and the likes would go on to do with such defenses. They would bang in about 100–120 goals each season. Yes, that is how good they were. Ronaldo in his first season at Barcelona scored 47 goals in 49 games in the mid 90s at just the tender age of 19 – a testament to his otherworldly abilities that would reflect tenfold in the modern era. Same with Pele and others because a genius is always a genius, not governed and bound by time and place. A genius would adapt and improvise. would gain the physical and mental prowess of the era in question, and still overcome opponents and overtake his peers – a simple logic. Shitty arguments that the game is faster now, more athletic, players are better physically with better nutrition, training facilities only prove this logic all the more.

    Still the modern players get injured, sit out a whole or a large part of a season, some very injury-prone, grimacing and writhing in pain(most of them being fake) at the faintest of touches yet people consider them to be physically superior and more resistant – the silliest paradox. If you think clearly, the players of the past did not have these many amenities or privileges but still they resisted injuries and even returned from career-ending injuries to play as before.

    The players of the past had to face brutal tackles, murderous fouls but still managed to evade most of those tackles and even if they fell, they would get back up and resume playing normally unlike the modern prima-donnas who would fall and tumble and roll over all the more at mellower fouls. The modern-day forwards are heavily protected by referees. Offside rule in those times were more rigid. Fouls that are worthy of red card today were simply ignored then. Defenders of the past had the benefit of doubt over attackers and they could get away with those nasty fouls like the one committed against Pele in the 1966 World Cup that ended his world cup journey only to return in 1970 to make history once again. Same with Maradona – he was too hacked and kicked but he kept his balance and created magic. But modern defenders are severely restricted to play their full game as they have to keep in mind the red and yellow cards so easily handed out by referees. Modern football have become a carefully planned spectacle that is interrupted by enforced restrictions that impede free play.

    The players of the past did not have any such advantages. They did not have such advanced training facilities or nutrition. They maintained themselves with what they had available. A grievous injury and their career were almost over; took a considerable time to return to full fitness. They did not have finely laid-out pitches; they had waterlogged, muddy and rough pitches to play on. They did not have those fancy boots and balls that swerve and bounce on their own. They played with old-fashioned leather balls but still made those follow their whim – proof of sheer class.

    Besides, the FIFA World Cup is a benchmark (maybe the ultimate) for a footballer to be included in the list of the best ever. An annual event like the Champions League(not to take anything away from it) that is over-glorified in this modern day is best for deciding the best player of that particular season, especially in the last 10 years.

    Messi is a genius without any doubt, a legend too – he has cemented his position likewise. You cannot undermine Messi and his obvious talents, certainly the best of the last decade. But his achievements are also as a result of cooperation with players like Xavi, Iniesta, Dani Alves, Mascherano, David Villa, Sanchez, etc., part of the system – the famed but boring and one-dimensional ‘Tiki-Taka’. In his most productive years with Barcelona, he could do nothing with Argentina who had excellent players, because the Argentina national team was and still is not as strong as Barcelona with no particular footballing ideology. Messi couldn’t do much and had been easily silenced. Again, people will argue about the 2014 World Cup that Argentina reached the final due to Messi and they did come second. Then they must remember that no one remembers the one who came second – Did anyone remember the Dutch team of 2010 World Cup? Did anyone remember the German team of 2002 World Cup? Did anyone remember the Argentina of 1990 World Cup? I hardly think so. Plus, the journey for Argentina up to the semi-finals was smooth in the last World Cup and it was DiMaria too who was instrumental for Argentina, not just Messi. Messi could do nothing, not any sign of sheer individual brilliance in the semi-final against the Dutch or in the final against the Germans, yet Messi and his fanboys are hellbent to put all the blame on Higuain, Aguero and the likes. Well, Maradona never complained when they lost in 1990. They accepted defeat graciously. Messi didn’t even congratulate the deserving champions, instead went on about his own arrogance and snobbishness, just waiting for his “Best player” trophy.

    Now coming to the skill part, I would again repeat Messi is great yes, but Pele, Maradona, Zidane and Ronaldo ‘Il Fenomeno’ were much better. They had it all and in many case they were much better – goal-scoring efficiency and efficacy from all over the pitch, assists that were more creative, impeccable close ball-control, one-on-one success rate, dribbling through the whole team and even the goalkeeper, long passes, killer through-balls, offensive positioning, supreme play-making skills, vision, in-born natural abilities and not being a product of a youth setup, tactical awareness, unbelievable balance, body strength(especially Pele and Ronaldo), unique creativity that were way ahead of their time and many such more qualities.

    Coming to Ballon D’Or or World Footballer of the year or whatever, for the past decade it has been just a sort of popularity contest denying far more deserving candidates in a few of the years like Iniesta, Schneider, Ribery, or Neuer. The last player to receive the award that was not a forward was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. From 2006 and before, defenders, midfielders, and even goalkeepers were worthy inclusion among the top nominees. Now, a goalkeeper will have to perform at a minimum Lev Yashin-level or more to be even considered worthy. Same for defenders. Such is the pathetic state of this award. A fucking two-man show just for the sake of it.

    Again, people can quote me statistics and individual honors which in this day of hype and publicity are more pronounced than ever. But these stat-obsessed people would not value actual aesthetics, brilliance that needs no medal, nostalgia created by this very brilliance, and sheer class that transcends stats and awards but wins people’s hearts while dumbfounding them.

    Pele did everything 50 years ago that all the footballers of the past 30 years did. The sad state of affairs is that most people are either ignorant or unaware of these past legends who were better in most aspects. Thus, they refuse to acknowledge and are dismissive of them and are of the conclusion that Messi, CR7, Xavi, Puyol, Boateng and Neuer are the best ever in their respective positions. But by no means do these unfounded speculations diminish the value and legacy of these all-time greats. What they did will forever be etched in the minds of many and remembered fondly.

    Even if someone watched a few of the matches or highlights or even some nice videos of Ronaldo “The Phenomenon”, he/ she will see how Messi and CR7 are like kids in front of him. He combined speed, acceleration, close ball control, trickery, precise and natural dribbling, positioning, accurate finishing, play-making in spite of being a striker, ingenious creativity, physical strength and balance – a rare mixture of talents to have – one of a kind. He never needed to improvise much, he was always relaxed. He scored goals for fun, not to create or break records or to receive adulation and praise. He dominated in every league he went to and for Brazil too. If it wasn’t for his successive knee injuries he would have gone on to be the best ever surpassing even Pele – such was his caliber.

    To answer the second question, Messi is a legend indeed but just playing in an era where it is easier and smoother for the forwards. He clearly belongs to footballing heritage. Still, ranking him as such would be an arduous task that does not interest me.

    Stephen Reji has given all the stats and I guess it answers the question. He is the best of all time just by stats. However, according to me, stats are not all that define a player. He is an out of the world talent who had the same playing style since he touched the football for the first time. No flashy tricks and skills like Elastico, Rabona, etc.
    I will make a list of all his abilities that make him the completest player the world has ever seen.

    1) Hard work
    Of course, one must work hard to be considered as the best. Most people underrate his willingness to work. Few know that he is one of the most hardworking players on the planet. Over the time in his career, he has improved his free kicks, speed, acceleration, passing, dribbling, ball control, headers, etc. A few days ago, I read that he has cut short his 1 month holiday to return to training so that he can continue winning trophies. The following video shows his desire to improve after he suffered an injury.


    2) Passion for the game
    Here is a quote by the man himself that tells us his passion for the game

    I always thought I wanted to play professionally, and I always knew that to do that I’d have to make a lot of sacrifices. I made sacrifices by leaving Argentina, leaving my family to start a new life. I changed my friends, my people. Everything. But everything I did, I did for football, to achieve my dream.” ~ Lionel Messi

    And his Willingness to improve also reflects his passion for the game
    Here’s another quote to justify this

    “The day you think there is no improvements to be made is a sad one for any player.” ~ Lionel Messi


    3) Talent
    Now, Messi has the talent that gives you goosebumps. I mean there has never been such a bright talent for me in football. His positioning, dribbling, finishing, and passing abilities are out of this world and he is one of the best at everything listed. This is what makes him complete and the best player of all time. Let’s see each aspect of his game in detail :-

    DRIBBLING:-
    With his dribbling skill, Messi can make fool of any defense in the world. He can run through the whole team and score a goal that makes you doubt whether the guy is human or not. His style of dribbling is simple to see but hard to master. He has a short control and command on the ball and has the ability to dribble without looking at the ball. People has described his dribbling in many different ways. They say that it is like the ball is glued to his feet. Just by running with the ball and changing direction, he is the best dribbler the world has seen. It is as simple as that.

    FIRST TOUCH:-
    For me, Messi has the best ball control/first touch in the world. I will just let this video do the explanation.

    POSITIONING:-
    Movement OFF the ball is one ability that defines a player’s quality. And Messi’s genius makes him the best at positioning, be it inside or outside the box.

    FINISHING:-
    Well, the amount of goals he has scored does the explanation that he is one of the best finshers on the planet. Here are his best goals for Barcelona and Argentina.

    Sorry for such a long answer, but i hope it answers your question.
    Any suggestions to improve the answer are welcomed.
    CHEERS 🙂

    Leo Messi is without question the best player in the world. He has no equal among his peers except Christian Ronaldo. He can play as winger, striker or center forward. He excels in all these three positions whereas C. Ronaldo has failed to master the center forward position. Messi dominates the modern game where defensive players are more athletic and physically bigger than any era since 1940. His ruthless runs strike fear into defenders. Messi is deathly as a finisher or playmaker. Not since the grace of Ronaldo (Brazil) and Rivaldo has the world seen such sublime talent.

    However, I disagree with Altolaguirre lofty praise of the Argentine. Messi has not proven himself as the second nor fifth best player of all-time. To crack the top five list, Messi must prove himself in the World Cup, a feat which he has failed with amazing supporting casts. Unless Messi could guide Argentina in bringing home the gold not once but twice, he shall not be remembered or considered among the top five great. In fact, he could join the list of fallen Titans: Michel Platini, Ference Puskas, Marco van Basten,Di Stéfano, Eusebio, Johann Cruyff.

    To be considered the five best players of all-time a player must dominate the club and international levels. Thus far, Messi does not merit the top five. Hence, the top five will remain as follow:
    1. Pele
    2. Diego Maradona
    3. Zinedine Zidane
    4. Garrincha
    5. Franz Beckenbauer
    * Johann Cruyff (missing the list)

    There are some paralleles between this discussion and the discussion about the better one of Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

    To me trophies matter over statistics. Especially in football even more than in basketball.

    Messi has not won the biggest trophy there is to win once, whereas Pele has won it three times! Pele become the youngest world cup champion ever by scoring two goals in the final of ’58 including a bicycle kick. Without wining trophies and stepping up in the biggest games (world cup finals) Messi cannot be seen as superior to the former heros of the game in my view. But he surely is one of the best (if not the best) football player along those who never won the world cup. But also careful here, because there are great competitors even for this award in Puskas, Di Stefano (5 time CL winner), Cruyff, Van Basten and many others.

    Why don’t we let Messi finish his career first before we speculate where he ranks among the all-time greats of this beautiful sport?

    Lot of answers about why messi is the best. I agree with almost all of them.

    I want to discuss, something that most of the time most people ignore about Messi. Messi is exceptional with ball at his feet. But he is exceptionally exceptional without ball at his feet or ball not being anywhere close to him and his team is building up attacks. Messi’s strogest asset is his scanning of the pitch, tracking whereabouts of players (both teams) around him and their movement, making small sudden movements to disrupt defensive formation, changing the field of play in absence of ball.

    The brilliance of Messi in simple word put shortly:
    Observe Messi off the ball during the game. You can see he only walks and that too very slowly. He doesn’t rack up kms in pitch covered like Iniesta or Alonso or CR7. He is usually 2-3 kms short every game compared to these players. Its his brilliant reading of the game that makes him effective while being not so worked up. There is also an analysis that Messi is so effective while running with the ball because most of the time he is stationary while receiving ball. This gives him time and space to tune his runs and make him the best receiver. He is first of his kind and foremost the most effective player ever without the ball. This is incredible because almost all the teams and managers know he is about to do it but couldn’t stop him.

    He is the only player I’ve seen who can switch field of play without ever touching the ball.

    Long description:
    Short introduction to how Messi scans and how important it is. That ball is circulated between Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta.

    Pep Guardiola and his False 9 that won trophies and accolades.
    Pep once said, he wanted to make Messi a better player but in turn, messi made him a better manager. Messi is the best player who can define false 9 role. He makes it very easy on the eye unlike muller who is also good but it is hard to keep track of movements and learn how a false 9 should be playing. So, Messi makes it easy to learn about his movements but still is tough to stop him. How? Because he keeps re inventing his movements off the ball with in the scope of false 9.
    In the following video, at 0:08, Messi drops deep to collect the ball, pulling a CB with him. this CB at 0:11 is far ahead of their 2 CDM’s for no fault of his as he is always taught to keep track of CF and taunt him. This also creates space for Alexis who now exploits it. But for all of this to work, Messi need to do a lot and not just run into deep midfield to collect the ball from defence. He needs to control the ball in a tight space and pass it forward with his back towards goal. His deep runs should not only attract players around him but should be able to create space for both  his teammates to run into and a pass.

    Video above also few more skills like taking on defenders from deep too, which doesn’t really need any break downs. It also includes a few movements where he starts out wide on left, then drops inside between midfield, flanks and CB. This not a traditional false 9 but a variation of it or more like a modern false 9.

    One thing I always like in any striker is how well they can create space for themselves and their teammates. This doesn’t come by name but by their movement. Following short video has everything. No explanation needed. Couldn’t find a better one.

    Also, never forget the intelligence of players around him who carefully exploited what Messi offered to them.

    He is certainly there and so is Ronaldo. But I would say neither of them is the best of all time. For me, the best five players of all time would be – Maradona, Pele, Zidane, Ronaldo and Messi (in no order). Of this five players, I think that Maradona is the greatest ever.

    He joined Napoli at a time when they were languishing at the bottom; they had just finished 17th in the Serie A. Two seasons after his arrival, Napoli won the Scudetto. Do keep in mind that back then Serie A had some of the best defensive sides and was the most competitive league. Messi and Ronaldo might have more titles at the club level but one cannot ignore the fact that they are supported by great players around them.

    Maradona was at his best playing for Argentina, lifting his team’s performance beyond expectations. In fact, a majority of the credit for Argentina winning the 1986 WC should go to him. He took an average team and made them champions. The Argentine team of today is blessed with talented players like Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Tevez, Di Maria, Mascherano, Lavezzi, Dybala etc. but still hasn’t been able to win a major trophy.

    One must also remember how much more you could get away with fouls back then. Unlike the forwards of today, Maradona wasn’t protected at all by referees and had to play through rough tackles that often went unpunished. Modern day referees are more protective of the forwards. Players go down under minimal contact and they are easily awarded free kicks/penalties. New technology also helps the players in many ways.

    So, in summary, Messi is in the top bracket but he is not the greatest ever. That title will always be Maradona’s.

    There are plenty of reasons to justify that he is the best in the world. Messi always plays for the team and not for his glory. Anyone who watches his game can obviously realise his dedication to the team’s victory rather than building up his individual records. He is the only striker to have 170+ assists. That shows his team spirit.
    He is not just a player who dribbles and scores,,….he is also a playmaker and a pass master. He has good vision and he can create clear cut scoring chances.
    He doesnt display arrogance on the pitch. Even if he gets fouled you can see a smile on his face. It is literally hard to bring this little guy down coz he has a perfect balance while dribbling. He doesnt dive at all.
    Moreover, messi is a humble, down-to-earth human being

    To say the “best of all time”, one has to be exactly that, best of all time. That player has to be able to transcend generations as Martin mentioned, be able to travel through time, backward or forward, and perform at the level they are known for. Lionel Messi is the best of all time, right now. However, there are some other recent players who I don’t see mentioned, but in my opinion, if they were were in Messi’s generation today, would also be in the conversation. Eric Cantona, and Dennis Bergkamp. These were un-defendable, wonderfully gifted footballers with incredible football minds. I would love to watch these two back on the pitch today. Their anticipatory vision and pitch IQ is unrivaled and works to level the playing field today.

    Messi is the best because it does things other players couldn’t  imagine trying.

    Look this play for example:

    Look closely and tell me,  which another player could do that?
    He dribble four players in such a small space and still leaves the fellow in front of goal.
    Only in this video he shows incredible dribbling and ball control, good speed and balance,pass and viewing game. all in less than ten second.

    That’s why messi is the best.

    YES! The answer will always be yes. You have to understand the roots from where he started. He is already ranked on top by the greats of the football and I think the guy deserves. On comparison with Ronaldo, I would say both of them are greats. It is unfortunate for Ronaldo to have been playing in the same generation with Messi. Ronaldo will always be second. Also you must have noticed that Ronaldo is always compared to Messi, whereas Messi is compared to the greatest footballers in the world. He is pure GENIUS!