Lionel Messi is 28 and last season, played the best football of his life. Messi also helped Barcelona win the Champions League, La Liga and Copa Del Rey.

He scored goals in all the decisive games of all the tournaments. On top of that, this is actually the fourth time he has helped Barcelona win the biggest trophy there is in club football, UEFA Champions League.

He has broken every La Liga record and every Barcelona record. He is the highest goal scorer of all time in La Liga and the highest assist maker of all time in La Liga (assists statistics were introduced in 1990.).

He has won every trophy with Barcelona at least twice. He has won six trophies in a single season with Barcelona and has had numerous treble winning seasons with Barcelona (only two treble seasons with Barcelona if we put the condition of La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League counting towards a treble. Which is fair I think.)

So whats next for mighty Messi? Is there anything left for him to do in football? What more could be possibly achieve?

Well, believe it or not, people started to ask that same question about six years ago when Messi won six trophies with Barcelona under Guardiola in a single season.

Since then, Messi has ignored everyone who has suggested something different to what’s already working for him.

There is no question that Messi is one of the greatest players of all time. He is certainly in my top 10 greatest players of all time regardless of what he does with his career from this moment on, but is he the greatest of all times?

There will never be a single greatest player of all time but there have been three or four players who are always part of that particular debate.

Here are some things which Messi has not done to merit a nomination in those particular debates:

  • He has had literally no national success so far. Finals of Copa America (which is a shame really considering the competition level of this particular tournament.) this year and finals of the World Cup in 2014 is all Messi has to show as far as national side is concerned.
    It is even more humiliating since Argentina was handed the title on a platter this year when Brazil got knocked out of the tournament before the finals.
    Messi couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do it in the World Cup and he couldn’t do it in Copa America. If it wasn’t for Di Maria or Higuain, who knows what would have happened in the World Cup as well, since Messi was certainly,not there to lend a helping hand.
    Messi will be around 32 when the next world cup comes around. It is a safe bet to assume that, that will be Lionel Messi’s last opportunity to win the World Cup in an appropriate manner (of course he could keep himself fit till his mid 40s and continue to play for the national side as a benchwarmer for the sake of medals).
  • Messi has spent his whole career (read life) at Barcelona. He needs to change that in order to show that he can adapt to different teams and different styles.
    Time after time again, when people bring up Ronaldo vs Messi debate, this is one area where Ronaldo is ahead of Messi by a country mile.
    Ronaldo has been the greatest player of all times for two different clubs in two completely different teams as a completely different player.
    That is something Messi has never done and probably will never do because, it seems, Messi likes to play it safe whenever he can.
    Messi should at least move to a weaker team it seems. Barcelona would be amongst the top three sides of the world regardless of the fact if Messi is present or not.
    Players like Maradona, Ronaldo and Pele brought fame and glory to clubs that weren’t so great before their arrival.
    Manchester United was not the same team it was when Ronaldo wasn’t around. Same was the case with Napoli and Santos in case of Maradona and Pele respectively. Messi has to sort of start over again with a team that isn’t already the best in the world.
  • If not teams, Messi at least has to change leagues. And not change leagues in the sense, that he move to USA or something.
    Messi has to prove himself in one of the top leagues. Since La Liga is not an option, that only leaves two genuinely tough leagues that are EPL and Serie A.

Of Course we know Messi will not do that this season. Messi has been constantly ducking these questions since his sextuple six years ago.

Here is why I think, time is running out for Lionel Messi to lay his claim on the greatest of all times title:

  1. He is 28 now. That leaves him about three to four years at the top of the game. With Ronaldo snapping at his heals every time Messi drops his level even an inch, who knows if he even has this season secured.
    Messi has to answer all of the above questions within the time period. Otherwise, his legacy would not be amongst the greatest players.
  2. There is no telling if Messi will be able to sustain the fitness levels required for his style of football. It is right about now when Messi should start to lose some of his pace and acceleration.
    At about 30, his ability to change direction and get away from defenders in a jiffy would start to diminish and he would suddenly find himself not being assertive on the pitch.
    Messi has to start thinking about national success and a change of club at precisely this moment in time if he wants to have any chance of being ranked amongst the greatest players of all times.
  3. Messi has always reiterated that he plays football with the same passion he had when he used to play on the streets.
    Well, guess what? That passion and hunger for more would not loss forever. With the amount of redundant success he has had with Barcelona, who knows if Messi will be able to push himself even more to finally win something in another country or win something with the national side.

Conclusion

Lionel Messi, though as great as he may be, as ducked these questions for at least half a decade now. But he has to know that time is running out for him to make his mark. He is the greatest player of all time as far as Barcelona is concerned.

But further successes with the same club, with the same team would count little if he wants to establish his name amongst the greatest of all times.

The next World Cup and the time between then and now, is probably the last chance for Lionel Messi to switch clubs and achieve something.

Messi has also got to realise that this is the best national side Argentina will ever have. If he doesn’t win something big (at least a couple of Copa America’s since it isn’t that big of a trophy. All the big players are in Europe.) with Argentina till the next World Cup, perhaps Messi never will.

That would be a pity since Messi is a great player but unfortunately not the bravest of them all. Compare that with Ronaldo and one can see that Ronaldo has constantly moved out of his comfort zone and pushed himself to new heights simply by not settling.

Messi may think that Ronaldo is his rival but in reality Ronaldo is not as far as technical skills go. Messi is the underachiever and Ronaldo is the overachiever in this scenario.

Messi was gifted with supreme ability on the ball, Ronaldo had to work for everything. There are still many players in Europe today who are technically better than Ronaldo, but none can match him in terms of discipline, desire and ambition.
Messi is obviously superior to Ronaldo in terms of technique on the ball but as far pushing oneself to the limits is concerned, Ronaldo is lightyears ahead since Messi has not played for any other club other than Barcelona (he has not even expressed a desire to play some place else which shows that Messi is cognizant of  the fact that his style of play is conductive in limited environments)and is an underachiever with a national side whose only competitor on the continent is (or should be if we go by the quality Argentina has in this squad) an inconsistent Brazil.

Photo by Joscarfas

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