Argentina are going to the World Cup in Russia after a legendary performance by Messi led them out of a hole they should not have been in to begin with but nevertheless, Messi produced when his country needed it the most.
This performance sparked some debate on ESPN FC the other day and I found myself absolutely astounded with one argument in particular, that was being thrown around as to why he isn’t the best. Now whether you think Messi is the greatest to ever play or not, is subjective and it can be argued but what cannot be argued is a decade of unparalleled consistency, unmatched by anyone in any era.
One of the arguments used, was the fact that Messi has yet to win or perform up to his lofty standards in a World Cup and it is true. Messi so far, has not replicated his magnificent club form for the entirety of any World Cup he has played in but make no mistake, Argentina would have not reached the final without him in 2014 and they certainly would not be heading to Russia in 2018 without him.
The problem I have with using the World Cup as part of the argument is that the tournament takes place once every four years for about two months. That means a player gets 3 or 4 chances at best to win the thing and they have to contend with wide variety of factors that can affect their chances of winning.
Now some might say Messi has to win the World Cup to prove that he is the best because that is the highest level of football and he needs to perform at the highest level. I would argue that international football isn’t the highest level but rather Champions League football is. Reason being, you will likely find more quality players per team at the club level than you will in the world cup or international level because not all of the best players play for countries that are likely to qualify for the tournament. Teams that qualify for the champions league boast an overwhelming percentage of the world’s top players if not all of them.
The greatest of all time in my mind is still up for debate but it’s important that we use the totality of a player’s career as the main criteria. Basing how good someone was or is on the grounds of one tournament every 4 years just isn’t logical.