Argentine is already up there with best of all time.
There has been an underlying narrative throughout this summer’s World Cup that Argentina forward Lionel Messi still has something to prove to the world, that this tournament is somehow his chance to prove his greatness.
While it is tempting to romanticise this famous old competition, it is quite frankly insulting to the incredible achievements of Messi so far to suggest that he somehow has to prove anything to anybody, with an arbitrary set of fixtures at a certain time of year under a certain name no reliable basis with which to judge any player.
And yet, we still do it, even in this day and age of in-depth coverage and statistical analysis, the World Cup is still deemed as somehow greater than any other footballing event. A few, admittedly, great games from AS Monaco and Colombia winger James Rodriguez and suddenly he is a superstar and wanted by a host of Europe’s biggest clubs. A few goals against the likes of Iran and Nigeria, and suddenly Messi is ‘proving’ that he can do it at this level, even though I’m pretty sure his feats in Champions League finals against Manchester United or history-making scoring record in El Clasico matches against Real Madrid is a more accurate representation of his ability.
Already Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer at the age of just 27, Messi has broken almost every record there is on the pitch, and his immense trophy haul reflects the importance of his goals, while any simple goals compilation will reflect the sublime, superhuman quality of so many of them as well.
Whether you judge a player by numbers, by what you see him do, or what he has helped his teams win, there is little need to dispute that Messi deserves to be recognised as one of, if not the best players of all time. What he does or doesn’t do for Argentina shouldn’t change that, even though people’s opinions on him will no doubt change even if his side win the trophy and he has a poor game on the night.
The Messi we see for Argentina may not be as impressive or entertaining as the one we see for Barcelona, and that is down to the more defensive tactics of this side, which, apart from their star man is fairly average. The Nou Camp star has a lot of pressure to carry this side, and there is not a lot you can expect one player to do against opposition of the quality of Germany, who truly possess world class players in basically every position, and who will therefore be big favourites to win the final on Sunday.
That is what happens in football, the best teams – rather than the best players – win. Germany is the former, Messi the latter, and one result doesn’t affect that.