Why Lionel Messi deserves greater recognition

Lionel Messi Barcelona striker

Lionel Messi is overrated and Lionel Messi is boring. Barcelona are no longer the grandmasters of the game, rather becoming a washed up group who relive their past glories because they can’t work on any new material. If that’s your line of thinking then you’re probably watching the wrong sport. It is and should be impossible to grow tired of Lionel Messi.

It should also be impossible to ignore what he’s done in the game. At 25, the Argentine has won more Champions League trophies and Ballon d’Or awards than many clubs have league titles. And that’s not even getting into the myriad of trophies the player has won with Barcelona in domestic competition.

Messi is the best that ever played the game, and it shouldn’t require near-meaningless additions to legitimise that claim. The player needs a World Cup, well not really. The Champions League has become the pinnacle of the game, even if people say otherwise. It’s the club vs. country row, with club taking the cake every time. The player needs to do it in England. Why? So we can bastardise a gift to the game by setting him up in a head-on collision with any number of players from a town up north? No. Lionel Messi has helped one of the world’s best teams become the greatest team we will ever see. Barcelona under Pep Guardiola surpasses Ajax, AC Milan, Real Madrid.

Let’s put it into perspective and break it down. Barcelona would put five, six, seven, eight goals past teams every week. It didn’t matter if they were relegation fodder or former Uefa Cup or European champions. It didn’t matter to Barcelona and Messi when Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid came to town for the first time: they put five past them too.

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Would he do it England? Could Messi do it in England? Why not? Why would people actively search for reasons to discredit the undisputed greatest of the modern game? Zinedine Zidane didn’t have to prove his worth in England, nor did Ronaldo or Paolo Maldini or Michel Platini.

Messi is a genius who has done the unthinkable. While the Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga’s finest are hitting 30 goals a season, Messi is putting away 90 in a calendar year. Unfair comparison? Ok, the number was 50 for La Liga goals alone last year, taking away what he did in the Champions League and Copa del Rey. Those figures are eye-watering, they’re a hammer blow to the defined and apparently unbreakable parameters that footballers work in. We’re impressed by 30 goals in a season. Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42 goals to go with his Champions League medal were plastered all over the papers. Messi’s numbers are symbolic of an unnatural talent that deserves so much more.

It’s not just about being acknowledged and awarded with the highest personal accolade in world football, it’s about taking rightful credit right across the board. It’s always easy to be dismissive of what’s readily available and what you assume will be around forever, a product that can be found by simply flicking between channels and as easily discarded and discredited when something a little ‘easier’ to digest is available.

Who thought up the idea of this bandwagon? Are there fans who really think it’s cool to dismiss Messi? It’s a bit different, it’s a bit dangerous, a bit Rock n Roll. No, it’s as stupid as saying The Beatles were worthless, that Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson weren’t some of the greatest voices recorded. It’s unforgivable to label Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky or Babe Ruth as anything other than the greatest to ever play their sports.

People should be privileged to be living in a day when the greatest footballer that ever lived hasn’t even reached his peak yet. What would many football fans give to watch George Best again? Pele, Maradona, Cruyff? You’ve got one better, and the most special thing about it is that Messi is yours, not a player from another generation who you try to latch on to. They’ll never belong to you and you can’t identify with it.

As football fans, we should be watching Messi not as a footballer, but rather an icon, a gift and a defining figure. There may not ever be anyone like him. He could do it all again next year, topping his current figure of 90 goals and reaching 100. He could finish his career with a haul of Champions League trophies that forces disbelief and a shake of the head. You’re supposed to smile, be awestruck and want to see him do more.

Lionel Messi may not be everyone’s cup of tea, The Beatles may be the last band you look to when shuffling through your collection. But you’ve got to admire, respect and acknowledge that they’re the greatest.