Messi at start of long journey to becoming the best ever
Lionel Messiâ€™s sublime hat-trick for Barcelona against Real Zaragoza on Sunday â€“ his second triple in consecutive La Liga matches â€“ provided more ammunition for those who believe he is the best player in the world.
As well as putting Champions League and World Cup rivals on high alert, his latest masterclass â€“ a nonchalant header, a mazy run reminiscent of Diego Maradona in his prime, and a sweetly struck shot â€“ even prompted club president Joan Laporta to hail the 22-year-old Argentina forward as the best the game has ever seen.
Messi has scored 11 times in his last five matches in all competitions and was generous enough to let the out-of-sorts Zlatan Ibrahimovic take a late penalty after another twisting run ended with a foul in the Zaragoza area.
“He is the best player in the world and in the history of football,” Laporta told Canal Plus television.
“Along with Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona he is the best we have ever seen at Barcelona. He played a great game, he’s a brilliant footballer, decisive in matches and plays for the team.â€ť
Laportaâ€™s gushing comments about his star player were predictable and itâ€™s probably much too early to declare Messi the greatest ever player.
He has yet to prove himself at a World Cup and questions remain over his form on international duty, where he has failed to reproduce the brilliant displays he regularly turns in for his club.
Writing in Mondayâ€™s Marca sports daily, columnist Roberto Palomar noted that Messiâ€™s generosity toward Ibrahimovic made it easier for fans to identify with him and this could help him become the greatest player in soccer history one day.
â€śNormality, rather than being a drawback, could turn into a weapon to enable him to become the best player in history,â€ť Palomar said.
â€śBut he is not there yet,â€ť he added. â€śLetâ€™s not forget that he scored the three goals against a weak team in the Spanish league and that reduces their value.
â€śThe World Cup awaits and this is a big challenge he has to handle, as Pele, Cruyff or Maradona did in their day.â€ť
A Messi-inspired Argentina triumph in South Africa would be a good start
PHOTO: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi wins a penalty during their La Liga match at Real Zaragoza’s La Romadera stadium, March 21, 2010. REUTERS/Luis Correas.