Choosing the greatest of all-time (G.O.A.T.) in any sport is difficult, particularly when it comes to comparing athletes from different eras.
For instance, many people argue Pele’s three World Cup wins make him the G.O.A.T., but fans of other players would beg to differ.
Diego Maradona earned God-like status for his efforts with Napoli and Argentina, giving him a strong case to be called the best of all-time.
The five real goats recently employed by Betway Insider to settle the debate agree with that point, as they picked the Argentinian maestro as their undisputed number one.
While that less than scientific approach probably does not give us a definitive answer, it opens up another question regarding the claims of another superstar.
Lionel Messi has won a stack of silverware with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain at club level, but has failed to lift the World Cup with Argentina.
He played a key role in his country’s success in the 2021 Copa America, but has often underperformed when representing his nation at major tournaments.
Many people insist Messi needs a World Cup success on his CV before he can be considered the G.O.A.T., but the argument is flawed.
A quick look at his some of his career achievements highlight why Messi already has a legitimate claim to be called the greatest.
He has the record for the most goals scored in a La Liga career (474), the most scored in a La Liga season (50) and the most assists in a La Liga campaign (21).
Messi also has the most assists in a La Liga career (193), the most hat-tricks in a La Liga career (36) and the most consecutive La Liga seasons to score 20 or more goals (13).
His tally of 91 goals in calendar year in 2012 is one of the most impressive achievements of any sports star and will be difficult to beat.
Messi’s exploits have helped him win 11 league titles and four Champions Leagues. By contrast, Maradona won three league titles and one UEFA Cup.
It should also be noted that while Pele won plenty of silverware at club level in Brazil, he never tested himself in European football.
The argument that Messi must win the World Cup also falls down when considering the quality of modern international football in the past.
Pele was plying his trade when competition was thin on the ground at international level, so his achievements with Brazil should be viewed in context.
International football was more competitive when Maradona was weaving his magic, but still lacked the depth of talent Messi has faced in the 21st century.
To dismiss Messi’s claims to be the G.O.A.T. based of ‘failing’ to win the World Cup is nonsense given his achievements at club level.
Having continued to be a hugely influential player for club and country beyond his 35th birthday, Messi does not need a World Cup win to define him.