Any time a discussion about the greatest soccer player arises, Lionel Messi's name invariably comes into contention.
It might not be first, but the Barcelona star is always in the conversation—and rightly so, given the success and talent that he has displayed thus far.
At just 25, it seems almost preposterous to consider the Argentinian international as one of the greatest ever, but given all that he's achieved, it's actually not that ridiculous at all. In fact, when you consider all that he's achieved so far, it makes complete and utter sense.
Messi is certainly in consideration for the G.O.A.T. designation, though he doesn't have sole claim to the award just yet in terms of being the clear winner.
Some will say Diego Maradona; others will want to discuss Pele.
Yet Messi, with every year of achievements that passes, seemingly draws closer and closer to having the honor all for himself.
2013 could very well be the year Messi becomes the greatest player of all time, ending the discussion once and for all.
It starts with the European Champions League title.
Barcelona are into the final 16 of the tournament and looking good to book their spot in the quarterfinals of the competition. Messi will no doubt once again star in that competition and could well chalk up the Champions League Golden Boot Award for his fifth year in succession.
But should he chalk up another European title in 2013—his fourth in total—Messi would have a claim significantly above that of either Maradona or Pele.
Maradona never won the Champions League; Pele, for obvious reasons, didn't either, but he did win the Copa Libertadores twice in his career.
Should Barcelona win this year, Messi would have four European titles and a clear claim on the best player in the world status.
Of course, that's without even considering the achievements of his career so far, including the vast array of team and individual honors and awards.
Perhaps the most telling thing in the debate is the consistency issue, something which many believe doesn't lean in Messi's favor given the fact that both Maradona and Pele played for so many years more than Messi has so far.
Whilst that's correct to some extent, you do have to wonder just what the Barcelona wizard would have to do to further ensure his consistency.
In 2006, 2007 and 2008, he was named the World Soccer Young Player of the Year; in 2009, 2011 and 2012, he won the adult version of that award.
He has won each Ballon d'Or award from 2009 to 2012 (and no doubt plenty more to come) and been named to the UEFA Team of the Year every year since 2008 onward.
The list of his achievements goes on and on and on, and whilst we could do the same for both Maradona and Pele, their consistent high-level production at a year-to-year basis is simply secondary to that of the 25-year-old Barcelona star.
The biggest question, then, in Messi's quest to become the greatest of all time rests in his ability to either win or succeed at the FIFA World Cup.
He has never won the World Cup, whereas Maradona and Pele have, and their achievements in winning with teams that perhaps weren't incredibly strong have secured their legacies as two of the greatest players of all time on an international level.
Messi is yet to do so. He is yet to win a World Cup and yet to truly justify himself on the international stage as he has on the domestic front.
Whilst that won't change in 2013, you'd have to think that four European titles carries some sort of significance.
Should he chalk up another La Liga title and another Champions League trophy, Messi would not only extend himself to the international level of Maradona and Pele, he would virtually have one hand on a fifth Ballon d'Or title as well.
Given that he'll be just 26, that tally could well rise into double figures by the time he reaches his 30s, as could his domestic titles and other achievements.
Spanish and European success in 2013 could finally silence those who want to consider players other than Lionel Messi as the greatest player ever, even if he doesn't have a World Cup title among his accomplishments.
At the end of the day, no other player has achieved what Messi has so far when it comes to European and domestic success.
Maradona hasn't. Pele hasn't.
And they certainly hadn't achieved it when they were just 25.
Only Messi has.
Would you consider Lionel Messi the greatest player of all time?
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