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Ontheminute.com: Messi catapults himself into greatest ever debate

Messi catapults himself into greatest ever debate

Published: 17.12.12 / Written by: David Gold

Leo Messi, if he was not already in the debate, has firmly put himself in contention for conversations decades from now, where football fans will discuss who was the greatest.

His 86th goal of the calendar year set a new record, breaking the existing mark of 85, held by Gerd Muller, the former Germany and Bayern Munich forward.

The goals he scored were so typical of the genius of Messi too. The first, that typical darting run across the defence from right to left. Messi shifts the ball onto his favoured left foot, gets going, the defenders try to get near him, but are unable to prise the ball from his mesmeric foot grasp, and the Argentine works himself into space to angle a low left footed finish into the back of the net.

The second goal summed up so much about Messi’s greatness. Adriano passes the ball into Messi around 30 yards from goal, with plenty of space to run into. The field is set up for a typical Messi solo run and finish. With the record beckoning, you could bet that Cristiano Ronaldo and frankly most other players too, would have sized up the opportunity to go it alone. Instead, as Messi closes on the penalty area, he lays the ball unselfishly into Andres Iniesta’s path. Iniesta, having none of it, backheels it to Messi, whose first time finish is the record breaking strike we’d all been waiting for.

And so Messi now has yet another record to add to his many others. The top scorer in a La Liga season, Barcelona’s all time record marksman, the first man to score five goals in a Champions League game. Messi has set so many landmarks and every time he does so he makes the extraordinary seem that little bit more ordinary. The bar is so high with Messi. It says so much that the night after Falcao scored five in one match for Atletico Madrid, the world is talking not about the Colombian, but his Argentine rival Messi. Messi is even putting extraordinary achievements in the shade.

Cristiano Ronaldo is now so far out of sight that the Portuguese may as well give up now any hopes he has of overtaking Messi, save for a dreadful injury neutrals would hope he never picks up. Messi can win a fourth Ballon D’Or next month if he is voted as the world’s best player again in Zurich. If he is, he would overtake Michel Platini, Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff, the only other players to have ever won three of the award.

Even that does not seem like it would do him justice. The greatest ever have usually won the World Cup, and that is what sets Pele, Diego Maradona and Garrincha apart. Yet Michel Platini and Johan Cruyff are examples of some who have not won the greatest tournament who are in the discussion anyway. Yet if Messi can help lead Argentina to a World Cup triumph in under two years from now, then surely he will go down as the greatest ever.

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