Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Messi Myth

The Messi Myth still lives. For the last 14 years, since scoring his first Barcelona goal, Argentinian international and the King of Catalonia, Lionel Messi, has set the standard for professional football. A standard so high that even the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo has found difficulty removing himself from the shadow of his biggest rival – there are those that would argue he hasn’t.

Despite the incredible goals, the trophies, the outstanding skills and glue-like dribbling that Messi so often exudes, some ludicrously claim that Barcelona’s all time top goal scorer is not a contender for the greatest player of all time. For that, I am going to give my opinion on what I call The Messi Myth and why the extraterrestrial of a player whom has just scored his 600th Barcelona goal, exactly 14 years after the first, is one of, if not, the greatest professional football player of all time!

The reasoning behind this fable that Messi is not amongst the games best most commonly boils down to the fact that Messi has never played for a different club or in a league other than the Spanish La Liga. As an extension to this reason, the idea that Lionel Messi has never played in the Premier League prevents him from being the best in certain fans eyes and has even lead to the invention of the infamous phrase “But can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke?

Yes, Messi undoubtedly could.

It all started here for Lionel Messi.

I understand the idea that La Liga is heavily dominated by the powerhouses of European football that are Barcelona and Real Madrid. I also understand the idea that many of the mid-lower table clubs roll over the giants of Spain. However, even by acknowledging that La Liga is not quite as competitive as say the Premier League, Messi’s goal scoring statistics in comparison to a huge number of quality stars that have played in Spain is simply outrageous.

Messi currently reigns as La Liga’s highest ever goal scorer having notched an amazing 417 league goals in 450 appearances. He has a current goals per game ratio of 0.93. To put that figure into perspective, only Cristiano Ronaldo has a better goals per game ratio in the history of La Liga than Lionel Messi with 1.07, having hit the net 311 times in only 292 appearances.

In terms of players still in La Liga, French forwards Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann currently have a ratio of 0.48 and 0.42 which works out as a goal almost every over game – normally a very good return for a striker regardless of the league. If we look at superstars of the past, the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas amassed a goals per game ratio of 0.69 and 0.87.

The Messi Myth

Is the Messi Myth a red herring?

Looking at the above statistics, not only has Messi been scoring goals at double the rate of two current rivals, he has also been scoring them at a better rate than two players that many would consider as contenders to be the greatest of all time in Di Stefano and Puskas.

Earlier I stated earlier that La Liga may be slightly less competitive than the Premier League, despite that, the quality and willingness of the opposition means very little to Messi as he has scored more El Classico goals than any other player having struck 26 times in Spain’s biggest match up. It’s one thing for a player to thrive in La Liga, but to build records of such stature – realistically no one will break or get even close to breaking them – that’s simply incredible.

Moving away from Spain and into Europe, EUFA’s top competition, the Champions League has also been completely dominated by Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo currently sits top of the Champions League tree in terms of goals with 126 goals in 162 appearances. Messi comes in at second with 112 in 134 Champions League matches with a superior goals per game ratio of 0.84 in comparison to Ronaldo’s 0.78.

The fact that Messi has done it consistently done it in the Champions League, on top of his goals he’s also won Europe’s top prize four times, illustrates that Messi can do and does it against Europe and the world’s elite. It also proves that Messi could do it in England as following Barcelona’s most recent Champions League game against Liverpool, the Argentinian now has 26 goals in 33 appearances against England’s best teams.

The statistics in the below Tweets sum up just how outstanding Messi’s form against English sides really are:

As stated above, since 2011, only Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy and Eden Hazard have scored more goals against the top six of England than Messi with the five time Ballon d’Or winner having never even kicked a ball in the Premier League. Outrageous.

If one is ruling Messi out as a contender for the greatest of all time based on the fact that he’s never played in England, using that logic, you’d also have to rule out these players:

  • Pele
  • Diego Maradona
  • Johan Cruyff
  • Ronaldinho
  • Zinedine Zidane
  • Ronaldo (Brazilian)
  • Rivellino
  • Alfredo Di Stefano
  • Ferenc Puskas
  • Eusebio
  • Zico
  • Jairzinho
  • Gerd Muller
  • Franz Beckenbauer

From Rio Ferdinand to Virgil Van Dyke, Messi has faced England’s best and has destroyed England’s best. If Lionel Messi ever does come across a Ryan Shawcross on a rainy night in Stoke, I know where my money is going. Given his most recent showing against Jurgen Klopp’s outstanding Liverpool team, the domination of English sides from the footballing God of Argentina is showing no sign of coming to an end.

This angle for Lionel Messi’s 600th Barcelona goal shows what an incredible set piece taker the Argentinian really is.

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