The diminutive forward has been in sensational form for Barcelona in 2012 and has also carried that form over into his international performances. Is that the key to him being recognised as the best footballer of all time?
Lionel Messi surpassed Gerd Muller’s widely recognised calendar year goal-record earlier this month and added to it last night. He now proudly sits on 90 for 2012.
While some supporters of little-known Zambian hot-head Godfrey Chitalu will argue his 107 is still the number one tally the standard of Zambian league football surely holds no candle to the standard of opposition Lionel Messi has been tearing apart in the past 12 months.
While over the years it has been difficult to find any real criticism to level at the precocious record-breaking Argentine forward one area where many have tried has revolved around his performances on a national stage for his country.
In July of last year the Barcelona maestro had to swat away rumours that he was considering quitting international duty after criticism was aimed in his direction for a string of uninspiring performances for La Albiceleste.
At the time Messi stated:
"I will always come to the national team. I come because I always want to play and I will not change because of what the press say. I have never cared about what the press say and I will not start now…I come to the national team because I feel it is part of me…This is the first time I have been through something like this with the media, but I am not going to change."
Fast forward 18 months and finally he is starting to show the form that Argentine fans have been waiting for. 2012 has easily been his best ever year for his national team scoring 12 times in just nine appearances. His previous best was six in 14 back in 2007 and his tally for this year is more than the last four years combined.
He has scored two hat-tricks in that time; one against Switzerland and probably his finest ever moment for Argentina the hat-trick in a 4-3 win over fierce rivals Brazil including the fourth and winning goal.
The debate that rages on over whether he or Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the best in the world will continue for many a year. The other debate however is whether Messi is in fact the best we have ever seen. Some argue until he wins something at international level that is not an honour that can be bestowed on him. The likes of Zidane, Maradona and Pele have all graced the World Cup with stellar performances over the years which still belittles Messi’s claim to this most enchanting throne.
In the last 18 months he has answered his critics at home with his international performances and if in that same period of time he can lead Argentina to world glory in Brazil it will be hard to find anyone who disagrees on whether Messi is the best to ever play the beautiful game.
Does Messi need to win the World Cup to be considered the best ever?
Here is his memorable hat-trick against Brazil...
image: © jamesmooreno1