Who are some of the greatest soccer players ever? Pele. Maradona. Zidane. Ronaldo. Cruyff. Those names roll off the tongue with ease from every soccer fanatic. But there is a man that could soon shatter all these names and perhaps become the greatest of all time—Lionel Messi.
After last year's Champions League match against Stuttgart, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said, "Every great has a tendency to influence his team, like (Michael) Jordan with the Bulls. He's the best. We wouldn't trade him for anybody."
On the pitch, Messi's presence on the field is more than just game changing. Ever since his debut with Barcelona in 2006, Messi has not only won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year along with winning the sextuple in 2009 (La Liga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup), he won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year again when they were merged into one award in 2010 (now the FIFA Ballon d'Or award).
He has won every award possible at the club level. To add to his enormous collection of awards, he even obtained an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
At only 23, Messi has taken the entire soccer world by storm. His electrifying play on the pitch has vaulted Barcelona to the top of the La Liga standings, ahead of his rival Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi has said to the media that he and Cristiano Ronaldo "have no personal duel." Perhaps this is a sign that Messi is on another level. Although C. Ronaldo is a great player, he has yet to beat Messi in any matches involving them this year—Real Madrid suffered a 5-0 destroying at the hands of Barcelona, and Argentina defeated Portugal 2-1 in an international friendly on Messi's penalty kick.
There is only one thing missing, however, from Messi's resume—a World Cup win. Many of Messi's critics often use this against him. Argentina showed one of their most glaring weaknesses in the 2010 World Cup—the lack of a midfield and a rapidly aging defense.
At club level, Messi has the privilege of playing with possibly the two best midfielders of our day and age—Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. On the international level, however, Messi is the one man the Argentine squad turns to. Learning from their loss to Germany in the World Cup, Messi will probably come back in 2014 ready to win. If not, Messi has at least two more World Cups in him following that.
Messi is already recognized as the greatest player of his generation; how much more if he won Argentina a World Cup? One can only imagine.