Lionel Messi: 5 Qualities That Make Him the World's Greatest Footballer

Brian CaneverCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2012

Lionel Messi: 5 Qualities That Make Him the World's Greatest Footballer

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    In football, there have been few truly magnificent players.

    Players like Alfredo di Stefano and Pelé, who captivated the world with their unbelievable goalscoring ability in the early days of professional football were followed by others with a similarly unique quality such as Diego Maradona and Johann Cruyff.

    There have been numerous others who at specific points were referred to as the best players of their generation. However, following the reign of Ronaldinho, there have only been two players as unquestionably skillful and captivating as the previous greats.

    Lionel Messi, the only man to win three back-to-back World Player of the Year awards, has at only 25 years old accomplished more with FC Barcelona, the Argentina U-20 and Olympic teams, and as an individual goalscorer than almost every player who came before him.

    The following list are the top five qualities that the diminutive Argentina possesses which have made him the most successful and accomplished athlete of the past five years.

5) Speed

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    Messi may not appear to be the fastest player on the pitch at times.

    In fact, his lethargic style when running off the ball makes him look quite slow when compared to fearsome sprinters like Cristiano Ronaldo and Theo Walcott.

    However, the little Argentine's speed with the ball is probably unparalleled in the game. 

    As evidenced in this blazing run against Nigeria, Messi keeps phenomenal close control of the ball as he blasts through numerous defenders before taking a shot which ricochets to Angel di Maria for the Argentine's second goal of the afternoon. 

    Although the Barcelona playmaker usually only illustrates his pace when he is on the ball looking to take on defenders, he is equally quick when spotting an oncoming pass and running onto it within the 18-yard box.

4) Combativeness

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    Unfortunately for most Argentine football fans, the country has a terrible reputation for producing attacking players that will all too easily hit the ground when lightly fouled by an opponent.

    Messi is as far from the typical mold as possible. In fact, considering his short stature and vulnerability, he probably hits the ground less than any other forward in professional football.

    One of the qualities that makes la Pulga so irresistible to watch is that he loves the ball so much he will scarcely let go of it or allow anyone to take it from him without a desperate chase to regain possession.

    As evidenced when playing Real Madrid and other sides that try to break him down with their physicality, the playmaker is also incredibly unwilling to go down after a challenge if he can stay on his feet.

    In this video, Messi is almost stripped off possession, but battles back to win the ball and storm through a field of diving Real Zaragoza defenders en route to goal. The play itself is good enough to watch over and over again on repeat.

3) Agility

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    Much like his speed, Messi's agility is best on display when on a magical run through a maze of onrushing defenders.

    The diminutive number 10's low center of gravity and fantastic control of the ball allow him to turn his waist in the speediest of motions to deceive opponents attempting to strip the ball from him.

    In this famous replica of Diego Maradona's "Goal of the Century", Messi takes off from his own half and slips by a half-dozen Getafe defenders with last-second cuts that leave them striking out at nothing.

    Messi's fantastic ability to wait until the very last moment to elude opposing defenders has been so frustrating that USA national team centre-back Jay DeMerit tweeted after a friendly in 2011, "Chasing Messi around feels like when you're 12 yrs old playing football with your 16 yr old brother and his buddies."

    He may not have the flashiness of tricksters like Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, but his stunning simplicity is similarly menacing.

2) Passing/Vision

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    As will be mentioned in the final slide, Messi is special for his ability to not only score goals, but also find his teammates with impossible passes to create goalscoring opportunities.

    That single quality is what separates him from any other player in the world right now.

    Not only has Messi broken scoring records, but he continues to provide more than any other forward in Europe with 18 and 16 assists in the past two league campaigns for Barcelona, respectively.

    In this compilation, the Argentine's remarkable vision and combination play is evidenced by the huge amount of assists he has collected for his club. While the quality of the video may not be the best, it is obvious that Messi's passing ability on such a grand scale is one of a kind.

1) Intelligence

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    Perhaps more than any other of his numerous qualities, Messi is unique for his blend of intelligence and perceptiveness as both a creator and scorer of goals.

    The little Argentine's decision-making between passing and shooting is especially clear in cases of an onrushing goalkeeper.

    In the 2007 Copa America against Mexico, the 25-year-old star scored this magnificent chipped effort after receiving a pass from Juan Roman Riquelme in loads of space. 

    Like his countless chipped or volleyed goals, Messi times the shot perfectly and gets it high enough above Oswaldo Sanchez for the ball to land cooly into the corner of the net.

    When most forwards would have simply shot low and straight at the keeper, la Pulga manages exactly the type of finish that has and will continue to dazzle audiences around the world for years to come.