FanDuel - WFBC

March 08, 2012

Messi Nets Five as Barça Reach Final Eight: Lionel Messi became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League fixture as Barcelona crushed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 (10-2 agg) to cruise into the last eight.

posted by scully to soccer at 12:10 PM - 13 comments

As expected the talking heads start the "greatest ever" talk about the 24-year old Argentinian. But Pele is having none of it:

"When Messi's scored 1,283 goals like me, when he's won three World Cups, we'll talk about it. I like Messi a lot, he's a great player. Technically, we're practically at the same level. He's a great player for Barcelona, but when he plays for Argentina he doesn't have the same success. People always ask me: 'When is the new Pele going to be born?' Never. My father and mother have closed the factory."

posted by scully at 12:13 PM on March 08

But he's 24. Let's have the greatest of all time in 10 years or, better, 10 years after he retires. If Lio can average 25 goals a year for Barca for 10 more years he'll be over 500--he'll pass the team's current career scoring leader in the next few weeks and that number would double the total.

Plus Argentina as a team should improve over the next 5-6 years considering how young some of its stars are and the time they'll have to mesh. Messi's been playing with many of his key club teammates for 10 years now and should develop the same understanding at the national level soon.

But I thought this ending from the AP's John Leicester gets it best:

The simplest and fairest solution is this: Accept that, for each era, there is a footballer who towers above the rest. Pele, Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and now, unquestionably, Messi.

But we don't need to compare Messi against those other players to understand a blindingly simple truth: The way he plays football, his humble and inventive genius, is an absolute delight to behold.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:56 PM on March 08

I know I'm in the minority for this: it bothers me when players take or are given credit for championships in team sports.

posted by DudeDykstra at 01:24 PM on March 08

(In this case I'm referring to Pele's constant reminder that he won three world cups)

posted by DudeDykstra at 01:25 PM on March 08

It's the second chipped goal that had me grinning. Other strikers might second-guess themselves when the keeper runs out to narrow the angle, perhaps go low or curl it or shoot for power, but Messi's footballing brain says "worked first time, so let's try with the other foot."

posted by etagloh at 05:18 PM on March 08

"When Messi's scored 1,283 goals like me ..." Ah, but the game was much, much different when he played: players are much faster and stronger. He wouldn't have scored that many career goals in today's game.

That's like comparing Wayne Gretzky's career in today's hockey. I don't believe we'll ever see 92 goals in a season, 894 in his NHL career (and 46 more in the WHA).

posted by jjzucal at 05:38 PM on March 08

Not really related, but nice to see the Getafe keeper has been getting a good rest back there.

Ah, but the game was much, much different when he played: players are much faster and stronger.

Never mind that, what about the quality of competition? Not to knock the guy, but Pelé played in Brazil and the US. Messi has been in the Barca system his whole life.

posted by yerfatma at 08:15 PM on March 08

(In this case I'm referring to Pele's constant reminder that he won three world cups)

Agreed. But I've never seen anything like Maradona at the 1986 World Cup. If anyone can claim they won it single handed, it would probably be him.

posted by owlhouse at 09:15 PM on March 08

If anyone can claim they won it single handed

Good one!

posted by Ricardo at 11:09 PM on March 08

Ah, but the game was much, much different when he played: players are much faster and stronger.

Pele himself would most likely have benefited from the same diet and exercise regimes that today's players have benefited from. It's not so much a different game that you can't compare Pele and Messi as competitors within their own times.

posted by Etrigan at 11:31 PM on March 08

I am sick to death of sports talking heads trying to analyze or place athletes into some greater historical context where they say one player is better than all other players, or one player is the greatest. They do that shit constantly on ESPN, for example, and to me it just seems like pointless masturbation. All sports change over time and making direct comparisons just seems like a waste of time to me.

Isn't it enough that Messi is a joy to watch and the most talented goal scorer playing the game today? Who cares if he stacks up to Pele?

posted by insomnyuk at 12:20 AM on March 09

Pele does, by the sound of it. Perhaps he was stirred into comment by Pep Guardiola's remarks after the game:

"He is among the greatest of all time. When Di Stefano played they said there would never be another and along came Johan Cruyff; they said there would never be another and along came Diego Maradona; now we have Messi. And I should include Pele, or he will get upset."

The only thing that annoys me about the "Is X better than Y?" in a football context is that this man seems to have been dropped from the conversation.

posted by JJ at 06:58 AM on March 09

And Platini. Better than a goal every other game from midfield for both club and national teams.

With Platini and Zidane the French have been ridiculously spoiled.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 10:54 AM on March 09

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