Messi is basically everything we ever wanted in a complete forward player. Brazillian Ronaldo was not known to take good free kicks and neither he has known to make sublime defense cutting passes. He was known to score goals when he was provided servide. Pele also was the same, he could only score goals. Zidane could not score goals neither could Xavi. Modern Ronaldo also has this problem, his game outside the penalty area of the opposition is at best mediocre.
In the case of Messi, you have everything. I mean everything. He sets up goals that even Xavi would be proud of. He can take free kicks from everywhere now. He can score goals from any angle. Something which modern Ronaldo simply cannot do because he has learned everything through training and hard work with giving much thought to anything else.
Messi can build up plays from literally anywhere on the pitch. He does not need to be near the opponents goals to be effective. Whereas all other players (all, not a single one of them excluded)mentioned before needed the ball close to the opponents goals or needed the ball on the counter attack to be effective.
Messi is just unreal. I mean literally, he is unreal. He does not need any service. He does not need his team mates making all sorts of runs and he does not need a great mind either. He has got unlimited options of scoring goals, creating goals and creating super players.
Lets take Zidane as an example. He has a master at setting up plays but was never a master at scoring goals. Neither was he known to have great speed. Zidane had trouble with defenses who defended with with two lines of 4 men. Even if Zidane was performing at his absolute peak, he still needed his teammates to make intelligent runs and needed his striker to be on the lookout of a disguised pass in order to break free from his marker in order to score a goal.
With Messi, all variables are just put into one big variable. That variable is Messi himself. He does not need his striker. He does not need to be on the left or on the right. He can score from wherever he wants and whenever he wants.
You can take away his speed and he still will be the best player in the world because of his ability to read plays, form plays and his ability to recognize a defense splitting pass and then actually making that defense splitting pass. Whereas all the other players (you can name any other if you like) except for Zidane relied on their speed and acceleration a bit too much.
But again, Zidane could not score goals and hence had to content himself with only passing to other players and letting other people score. With Messi’s finishing I think he would just need a ball outside the area and the rest would be a matter of history.
A big criteria of being the best player in the history of football is consistency. You can have a wonderful year (which so many player have had in the past) of football but to be amongst the greatest you need to outperform everyone else for at least 3 years to be considered a candidate for the greatest player of all time discussion. Here comes the problem with considering Maradonna, Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Zidane as being candidates of being the greatest players of all time. Messi has already outclassed everyone for the past 4 or 5 years and has basically won everything.
He does not have the fitness problems of Luiz Ronaldo ( a very strong candidate of being the greatest player of all time) neither does Messi has the drug problems of Maradona. The only player left to be considered a rival to Messi is Pele.
Messi has scored about 300 goals, Pele scored 1200 (albeit against relatively weaker teams and in a relatively weaker league). Apart from that, I have not seen Pele beating as many players in that era (of relatively slow Brazillian league football where probably half of the player were not even full professionals) as Messi has beaten in this era time and time again.
The only thing left for Messi to truly silence each and every sane person on the face of this planet about who is the greatest of all time is the World Cup. Messi has to win at least 1 World Cup to end the discussion and if he wins 2 then that would be just unreal and people would then question Messi about him being human or being a messiah of some sorts.
This post is obviously getting long so I am going to cut it short and save the rest for another time.