Lionel Messi is already in the debate concerning who is the greatest player ever—and deservedly so.
What he has done at the age of 24 took some players their entire careers to reach. And yes, that includes some of the greats as well.
The fact that we will be seeing this player in action for possibly another 10 years or so makes all his accomplishments so far even more astounding.
Here's a couple reasons why you could hail Lionel Messi as the best ever.
It's been said in the title slide and we'll repeat it here. Lionel Messi is only 24. It feels like he's been in the game forever, but with eight seasons under his belt so far, there is time for many more.
With everything he has done so far, he is one of the greatest to have played the game.
As we'll show you in the upcoming slides, Messi has done a considerable amount in his career that in some cases matches and in other cases is not far behind what legends of the game have done.
At 24, he has time to surpass those he has not yet, minus Pele's three World Cups of course, and continue to expand on what has already been a fantastic career.
There are a few of Lionel Messi's individual achievements below. He has already been named the Ballon d'Or winner three times, and with that achievement he has equaled the likes of Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten.
Along with those below, he has been named in numerous Team of the Year awards as well as being awarded as the top scorer domestically and in Europe on different occasions:
FIFA World Player of the Year: 1*
FIFA Ballon d'Or: 2*
UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 1
Onze d'Or: 3
UEFA Best Player in Europe Award: 1
Argentine Footballer of the Year: 6
Messi is certainly up there when it comes to individual accomplishments and, again, time is on his side. If Maradona and Pele were recognized players of the 20th century, Messi should end being recognized as one of, if not the player of this century considering what he has done so far.
If Lionel Messi's individual accolades aren't enough, he has surely done a great deal in a team sport, for his club team at least, so far:
La Liga titles: 5
Copa Del Rey: 1
Spanish Super Cup: 5
Champions Leagues: 3
UEFA Super Cup: 2
FIFA Club World Cup: 2
That's a total of 18 trophies, with many more on the way. The only thing that may stand in his way for some critics is his international record.
Diego Maradona cannot boast such a list of accomplishments in terms of team honours, and Messi can certainly overtake the likes of Pele, Johan Cruyff and Alfredo Di Stefano with all the time he has.
On the world stage few will match Pele's three World Cup titles, but Messi has at least three chances to tie Maradona. If one World Cup trophy gets you into the constant debate that Maradona is currently in as to who is the best ever to play the game, then Messi has a chance.
Lionel Messi's current competition consists of mainly three players. There is one of the best wingers to ever play the game, Cristiano Ronaldo, and two of the best central midfielders, his teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
Messi has been leading that pack for the past three years and doesn't look like stopping anytime soon.
Things may become more difficult when the likes of Neymar and the players of that generation move up in their careers, but who's to say they really will be a threat. It's definitely a possibility, but not a certainty.
It would be foolish to say Messi would still be completely dominant at the age of 30 when these younger players are around, but his main competition now will be his age or older.
Messi already has them beaten, and the younger players would have a lot of catching up to do.
We've already seen how some of Lionel Messi's accomplishments will stack up to the past greats, but we'll dig a little deeper here.
Pele and Diego Maradona are always at the top of the list when it comes to a best player ever conversation, and in some areas the likes of Johan Cruyff, Alfredo Di Stefano and George Best are added to the list. Best will have his own slide, so let's look at the others.
Pele will always have the three World Cups and his goal-scoring record but, as Allan Jiang pointed out in "The Top 5 Things Pele Does Not Want You To Know," both those things can be disputed.
When you consider what Maradona did for his World Cup trophy, it has to be viewed very highly. In terms of his other accomplishments though, he will not match up to Messi in the end, and Messi may just match his greatest international achievement.
The case is virtually the same for Johan Cruyff except, instead of the World Cup, he was a major part of the invention and implementation of possibly the greatest way to play football. He has no World Cup trophy, yet he is in the world's greatest discussion for some.
Alfredo Di Stefano is also in the same boat. His achievements may be surpassed, but he heralded a great era for Real Madrid much like Messi is doing for Barcelona right now.
And what about George Best?
As the saying goes, "Maradona good, Pele better, George best." But what's the criteria there? Is it what George Best did on the pitch every game and what people knew he was capable of despite all his problems off it?
Though no one in my generation did see Best play live, we certainly should and, in my case do, have a great appreciation for his talents.
If George Best can be brought into the discussion as being the world's best ever player, then Messi is already worthy of being there as well.
Pele speaks about titles and scoring records and Best doesn't have a lot of either. Messi already does. He does amazing things on the field, just as with all the other players you can think of, and he already has the accolades to back it up.
This is not a knock against George Best at all but just a thought that if players like Best, Johan Cruyff and Di Stefano can be brought into the mix, then Messi should be there as well.
If you look at Lionel Messi's statistical records from ESPN.com here, you'll see that he has gotten better and better each year.
He has already surpassed last year's total of 50 goals, with 51 so far. He only has to have six more assists to match last year's total of 21.
It's fair to say that Messi will eclipse all those achievements from last year by the time the season is done. Will that continue? It would be freaky, and let's hope I don't jinx him, but it's possible.
May there be one or two "off" years? Possibly. (And by "off" I mean just 35-45 goals and 10-15 assists.)
Even if that were to happen, Messi would go down as one of the most prolific players to play the game and, who knows, may come close to Pele.
Just kidding. Well...
First off I am not saying Lionel Messi is the greatest player ever—yet. These are all reasons that he could—and maybe should—be hailed as the best ever.
The arguments for and against any player in such a debate will basically always make it a stalemate. Messi has already done things that few players have in their whole careers, and time is on his side.
He is in his own league right now and close to, if not already among, the legends.