Lionel Messi’s 65th minute goal at the Maracana was quite simply extraordinary. The neat one-two with Gonzalo Higuain, the dizzying dribble, the two defenders colliding with each other and then the shot acutely hitting the post before going in, was just exceptional. His goal is one of the defining moments of the World Cup so far, but to say this puts him as “the greatest ever” as some pundits have suggested, is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
It has to be made clear that Messi is one of the best players ever to grace the beautiful game. However, there are only two forwards that, in my opinion, have achieved a status beyond God-like; they are of course Pele and Maradona. Messi is quite some distance off from reaching that echelon.
Messi’s Maracana Goal
One exquisite goal in what was an underwhelming performance (something that is becoming of an alarming regularity for Messi) should not mean that he is placed on a pedestal ahead of everybody else that has played the game on the biggest stage.
The difference between the Argentina number 10’s is that Maradona was able to produce for his country at the highest level of the game. Messi has never been able to do that. He failed to score in South Africa four years ago and was unfortunately limited in his appearances in Germany.
Messi does not have to win a World Cup in order for him to be considered as great as Maradona, but he certainly has to perform like he is the best player in the world. Something that he has been second best at in the last eighteen months to Cristiano Ronaldo—his El Clasico counterpart. Although, (and this excuse is starting to wear really thin) Messi has been plagued with injuries, which would inevitably effect his capacity on the pitch.
Another big problem that he faces if he is to be considered on the same level as Pele and Maradona, is that the World Cup has been packed with attacking football so far. Therefore, unless Messi can really shine in the next couple of games, he could be as forgettable as his performance in the last World Cup (or as forgettable as the entire World Cup in South Africa, for that matter).
Here’s a list of all the attacking/midfield players that have done better than Messi so far: Neymar, Mandzukic, Ratikic, Van Persie, Robben, Vargas, Cahill, James Rodriguez, Drogba, Campbell, Pirlo, Benzema and Muller. (Time of writing was before the Colombia vs Cote d’Iviore game)
With all that being said, Messi may feel a sense of relief after scoring his wonder goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The media were hyping up the fact that he only scored one goal prior to their opening game in the Maracana, and by satisfying the demands for a goal, his game could potentially elevate to a higher standard. There will also be more opportunities for goals against Iran and Nigeria—considerably worse opposition than Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Not that Messi will be worrying too much about his own game. According to the Daily Mail, he said that, “It’s important that we started off on the right foot with the three points, but we do have things we must improve.”
Those are wise words from Argentina’s captain. Although one cannot help but think that he might not be fully focused on the team performance but of his own individual performance. He’s 26 and who knows what shape he will be in come 2018—just look at Maradona’s degreadation, if the parallels are to be forever drawn between the two greats.
He knows and we know, that Messi’s Maracana goal is simply not enough to put him on that same level as Pele, and more importantly for the Argentinians, Maradona.
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