Lionel Messi: Labeling Barcelona Star as Greatest Ever Is Premature

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 17, 2012

What's the rush to label Lionel Messi as the greatest player ever? Not necessarily because he isn't...but because he has so much of his career still in front of him.
What's the rush to label Lionel Messi as the greatest player ever? Not necessarily because he isn't...but because he has so much of his career still in front of him.Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is building a strong case for being the greatest player of all-time when his career eventually winds to a close. But with so much soccer left in front of him at the age of 25, labeling Messi at this moment as the best to ever take to the pitch is premature.

No one can deny the scoring prowess of Messi, who is virtually unstoppable when he is on top of his game. At 5'7" and with impeccable ball-handling skills to go with a dead-eye accurate shot and natural instincts, Messi's quickness and speed make him supremely dominant.

Messi has been a legend in the making ever since debuting as a teenager for Barca in 2004. He recently added another chapter to his legacy by breaking the calendar year goal record held by Gerd Mueller for 40 years.

Footy Humour's Twitter page put into perspective just how jarring of an achievement this is in comparing Messi's 2012 tally to that of the entire team of English Premier League club Liverpool:

Liverpool - 84 goals in 2012.Lionel Messi - 90 goals in 2012.

— FootyHumour (@FootyHumour) December 17, 2012

This latest feather in Messi's cap has only spurred debate even further about his status as the greatest, as has Barca's astonishing undefeated run in La Liga this season, which has consisted of only one draw.

The club holds a commanding nine-point lead in the standings (h/t Fox Sports) after a recent, resounding 4-1 victory over second-place Atletico Madrid in which Messi scored two goals.

Combine what looks to be a reign of perpetual dominance over Spain's top soccer league and three UEFA Champions League titles already to his credit, and Messi has the resume of one of the greats already.

That's even without taking home the World Cup to his native Argentina, which is just about the only stage Messi hasn't ultimately succeeded on in his prolific career to date.

However, 2010 was his only true opportunity to be the most prominent contributor, as he was team captain. The national team went undefeated all the way to the quarterfinals, only to be pummeled 4-0 by Germany. That's not exactly the fault of Messi, since he's not relied upon to play defense.

And that's precisely the point at hand here: Messi has several more World Cup opportunities to further his legacy, a chance to win even more UEFA Champions League crowns and continue reigning supreme atop La Liga, consistently drubbing international staple Real Madrid in the process.

Saying that a player is the greatest in the history of the game is a bold accusation to make. With so much of Messi's story yet to be written, it's wise to let his career run its course before labeling him so quickly.

I am not arguing that he isn't the greatest ever—only that he has a chance to rise to an unforeseen level with so much still in front of him.