Messi cements place among the greats
Published: 13.01.13 / Written by: David Gold
Leo Messi won his fourth Ballon DíOr award in Zurich on Monday, and it was hardly unexpected.
The world had been assuming that the Barcelona star would receive the award again, having walked off with it for the last three years. In doing so, he has won more Ballon DíOr awards than any other player, and moves ahead of Michel Platini, who won three in a row.
The award confirms Messiís place as one of the all time greats of the game. We are no wiser as to how history will remember the Argentine, who is still only 25 and therefore has much left to achieve. But we can be sure that he will be remembered at the very least in the pantheon of greats such as Johan Cruyff, Platini, Ronaldo, Alfredo di Stefano and Socrates. Whether he reaches the heights of Garrincha, of Pele or of Diego Maradona is as yet unknown, without having won a World Cup.
Messi is surely on a level field right now with Cruyff, who achieved similarly remarkable things with Ajax. Although he never reached the same goalscoring heights as Messi, Cruyff was the integral part of the Ajax side which won three successive European Cups in the 1970s. That team also formed the basis of the great Holland team which reached the final and lost at the World Cup in 1972. For that, Cruyff deserves to be remembered as one of the greats in that category behind Maradona, Pele and Garrincha. Messi is now there too, having been the star of the Barcelona team which has dominated world football for several years now. Also on the same level should be Alfredo di Stefano, who similarly dominated the club game for the great Real Madrid team of his day during the late 1950s. Platini too was a key figure for the great France side in the 1980s, and scored in every game of the 1984 finals. He too should be considered in this group of greats.
This is the company Messi now shares. He will be remembered as a true great of the game, a humble genius with ability far beyond his peers. He is on a level of his own in the game today, a pantheon none can reach. No one has the same combination of quick feet, intelligence and close control of Messi. The remarkable thing is that so much of what he does is so similar. The familiar dribble from right to left across the defence before firing left footed low past the goalkeeper is a familiar site and the main theme of his goals, yet it is no easier to defend against. To stop him, you have to prevent him accelerating with the ball in the first place, which means blocking his space. Yet that is exceptionally difficult to do, and no team have really adequately managed to stifle the brilliant Argentine.
That is why Messi will go down as one of the greats to have played the game. He is one of the few whose abilities are so well known yet so hard to defend against. That none have found an adequate way to stop him is a mark of how great his talents are. We are privileged today to watch the Barcelona man, who may go on to become the greatest player who ever played the game.