Editor’s Note: There is little argument that Lionel Messi is the greatest soccer player currently playing the beautiful game and among the most popular athletes in the world. Today, in a RookieCards.com exclusive article we explore the possibility that Messi might be the best ever. Additionally, we’d like to open a discussion about Lionel Messi rookie cards. Leo has several rookies but there are only a few from Europe and South America that can lay claim to being the true rookie card. Please share your thoughts using the comments section below.
Is Lionel Messi The Greatest Soccer Player Ever?
The crowd roars as a blue and red blur streaks across the 18 yard line. Lionel Messi has the ball again. His short legs pump almost faster than the human eye can follow. He weaves between taller and much stronger defenders, dodging their shoulders and nimbly sidestepping their thrusting boots. Just when the soccer ball seems to roll into the possession of an opponent, Messi deceptively alters the ball’s course to be back within his control. As he nears the goal, 5 defenders converge upon his path. A flurry of limbs and cleats and divets erupts, but Messi soon emerges from the chaos, ball still magically attached to his feet. Without a moment of hesitation, Messi strikes with his left foot. The ball sends waves through the back of the net before anyone on the pitch or in the stands even realizes what has just happened.
This is a common scenario for Lionel Messi. He is the undisputed best player in the world, and he has the hardware to prove it: three consecutive World Player of the Year awards (2009, 2010 and 2011). But the real debate begins when a much more complicated question is asked: Is Lionel Messi the greatest soccer player ever?
To even begin answering this question we need to find a comparison. In the modern game it must be Pele and Maradona. Both are soccer legends, both have been lauded as the greatest players ever, and both have won multiple World Cups for their country… Wait a minute, Messi has never won a World Cup. On soccer’s greatest stage Messi has failed to emerge victorious twice, and he won’t get many more chances. Advocates argue that it is not Messi’s fault. They point out that Argentina has suffered under poor management and a lack of depth and skill. Then again, that didn’t seem to stop Maradona when he won the 1986 World Cup practically single-handedly.
Is the World Cup the best deciding factor for the title of greatest player ever? Messi has claim to so many other impressive titles. He has already broken—on pace to shatter—Barcelona’s all time scoring record with 234 goals and he has won five La Liga titles and three Champions League titles. But critics will remind us that he will be hard pressed to score even half of Pele’s astounding 1,283 career goals. Also, his trophies have been earned with the support of a European dream team. Maradona took underdog Italian club team, Napoli, from 12th place to Serie A Champions twice over.
None of Lionel Messi’s accomplishments can set him apart from the game’s greats. It is a safe bet that if he is not the victor of at least one World Cup, he will never even be placed on the same level as Pele and Maradona. In that scenario, becoming renowned as the World’s Greatest Soccer Player Ever is not even on the table.
So let us just take a deep breath, muster as much patience as possible and watch what happens. Come 2014, who is to say Messi will not stun the world by leading Argentina to a World Cup championship? And then why can’t he do it again in 2018? But until then, Messi will still manage to amaze us with his unbelievable feats of skill. His unprecedented five goals against super competitor Bayern Munich in a Champions League match is one such performance that will never be forgotten. No, Messi is not the greatest soccer player ever. But he will be.
As promised, here are the front and backs of a wide variety of Messi rookie and near-rookie cards. Let us know your thoughts as to which is the best or most rare.