Jul 13, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT
LeBron James, fair or not, will always be compared to Michael Jordan, and the first point of comparison is championships.
Lionel Messi, fair or not, will always be compared to fellow Argentinian Diego Maradona, and the first point of comparison is World Cup titles.
Maradona has one, and Messi has none.
At age 27, having helped his team to the World Cup final, Messi was powerless to prevent Germany from snatching the victory in extra time, while Argentina had nothing in front of goal.
But the biggest difference isn’t necessarily the win or loss of the trophy, but the performances involved. The “Cosmic Kite” won the World Cup in what seemed like a one-man show. “La Pluga” couldn’t.
And that’s the difference.
There’s no doubting Messi is one of the greatest players to have graced this beautiful game. He has 243 goals in 277 La Liga matches. He has 43 international goals. He has untold amounts of trophies for both individual and team performances, including an unprecedented four Ballon d’Or awards.
His national team manager Alejandro Sabella acknowledged that Messi had already secured himself into the category of greats before this team had started, which is entirely true.
“I believe he is already in the pantheon of greats,” Sabella told reporters after the match. “He was there before the tournament and he’s been there for a while.”
Messi’s electricity and dribbling beauty is once-in-a-generation type stuff, and that is not debatable.
But with a gaping hole on his resume, it’s hard to establish Messi as among the best ever, even in his own country.
In this day of communication, technology, and social media, club performances in individual countries mean much more than they used to, but World Cups still define players and careers.
Look at Pele. He played his entire career in the Brazilian league, which doesn’t have the exposure as some of the larger European leagues (although it had much more pedigree at that time). But with three World Cup victories, he is unmatched in that category and is indisputably known as the best soccer player who ever lived.
For Messi to stake a claim for the “best ever” designation – or even come close – he needed a World Cup, and it eluded him.
There’s still time for the moment. If he can keep up this level of play another four years, there’s no telling what can happen given another tournament. But he’ll be 31 at that time, and there was no better chance than while in the prime of his career.
Argentina was a good team, but with few individual stars and a couple of key injuries, there’s no question he has a better team at the club level. It’s difficult – nearly impossible, in fact – for a player to win a World Cup mostly on his own, and that should never be expected of someone.
But Maradona did it, and therein lies the problem.
No credit should be taken away from Messi this tournament, legacy wise. The world already knows what he’s capable of. He’s still, as Sabella said, in the “pantheon of greats.”
But he did nothing to further his legacy this past month either, and without improvement, he still remains just “one of the greats.” Just ask Johan Cruyff.
And that likely doesn’t sit well with the “Little Flea.”
May 22, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
It’s that time of year again ladies and gents. Get ready for the rumors regarding European veterans heading to MLS.
May 22, 2015, 9:56 AM EDT
The Brazilian defender wants to put the record straight. David, over to you…
May 22, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
After already winning two trophies this season, Chelsea cleaned up once again.
May 22, 2015, 8:20 AM EDT
After Sterling’s agent says his client will not sign a new deal at Liverpool, Reds boss is adamant he will remain at Anfield.
May 22, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
The MLS weekend is upon, and that means just one thing, Americans: It’s time to support your domestic league.
May 22, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT
Firing one of the world’s elite managers, so you can hire a good-but-not-great replacement? Not smart, Real Madrid, not smart at all.
May 21, 2015, 10:57 PM EDT
According to Scholes, the solution to Man United’s goalkeeping problem is a no-brainer.
May 21, 2015, 9:47 PM EDT
Well done to Tottenham Hotspur for showing the necessary compassion and taking care of one of their own.
May 21, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT
The draw for the 4th round of the 2015 US Open Cup tossed up a couple of absolute doozies on Thursday night.
May 21, 2015, 7:23 PM EDT
Jack Grealish has a big decision to make in the not-so-distant future, and it’s going to affect the course of the rest of his career.
May 21, 2015, 5:29 PM EDT
Thierry Henry is riding Olivier Giroud very hard these days, claiming Arsenal will never win a PL title with him leading the line.
May 21, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Qatar isn’t the only World Cup host to make others upset.
May 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
Sponsors hold the one true key to change in Qatar, and strong words are a start.
May 21, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
Many European leagues have spots in the big dance still up for grabs.
May 21, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
Jordon Ibe and Jon Flanagan both will stick around Anfield for a while longer.
May 21, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT
Only one candidate remains to battle Sepp Blatter, and it doesn’t look good.
May 21, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
The man who’s been investigated by the FBI and green lit loads of allegedly corrupt ideas will continue to rule your favorite sport.
May 21, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT
The announcement is the final touch of a poorly-kept secret, and comes with the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League on the horizon.
May 21, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT
The Impact will be looking for their third-straight Canadian Championship, having defeated TFC and Vancouver in recent campaigns.
May 21, 2015, 9:03 AM EDT
Ward said every club in the Premier League would bid for Sterling (who has already reportedly turned down an offer worth $235,000 a week).
- Brendan Rodgers insists Raheem Sterling will remain at Liverpool 0
- US Open Cup draw: Sounders-Timbers, NYCFC-NY Cosmos highlight possible 4th-round clashes 0
- Agent: Sterling wouldn’t sign new Liverpool deal, even for $1.4 million a week 6
- Leicester, QPR, Burnley players earn England call-ups for June matches 2
- US Open Cup second round wrap: Several USL sides clipped by “minnows” 1
- Mats Hummels rejects Manchester United move, will stay at Dortmund 5