Yes, Lionel Messi is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Here’s why

Is Lionel Messi the greatest player of all time? (Getty Images)Is Lionel Messi the greatest player of all time? (Getty Images)

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Lionel Messi continues to defy footballing logic.

On Sunday, the Argentine broke Gerd Muller's 40-year record for the most number of goals scored in a calendar year following his double in Barcelona's 2-1 win over Real Betis.

The three-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner has now banged in a staggering 86 goals in 2012 — and counting.

Football fans are split.

Messi's critics (or dare I say Cristiano Ronaldo fans) put down the 25-year-old's exploits — arguing his true talent hasn't been tested outside of Spain.

In comparison to the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga is less physical with attackers enjoying more space and time on the ball. Others of a similar vein say he is also blessed to be part of a star-studded Barcelona team who provide an endless supply of assists for the diminutive hotshot.

Since joining Barcelona's youth ranks at the age of 11, Messi has scored 283 goals in 352 games. He's amassed five La Liga titles, two Copas del Rey, three Champions Leagues, five Supercopas, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

But the absence of a World Cup in his trophy cabinet remains his critics' greatest trump card and the reason why he continues to be behind the likes of Pele and Maradona, who both have won the ultimate prize in world football.

Make no mistake. It's every footballers' dream to win the World Cup.

But ask any top footballer and they will tell you the hardest competition to win is not the World Cup, but the UEFA Champions League, where the top teams and the best players compete for Europe's top club football prize.

With all due respect to the World Cup, you don't necessarily get the best teams and players competing in the tournament.

But here's why in my book, he is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time).

While his international career with Argentina has never quite taken off, Messi has two Champions League titles under his belt with Barcelona and is the first ever player to be the competition's top scorer for four consecutive seasons.

He's scored against some of the best defences in Europe — including against Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final.

So although he's spent all his career at Barcelona, Messi has done more than enough to prove he is indeed the best player of all time — yes, including Pele and even Maradona.

And while the La Liga is not known for its watertight defences and physical style of play, the result-driven game today means the standard of defending has gone up since the days of Pele and Maradona.

The modern defender today is physically strong, uncompromising and harder to get past. In the 70s and 80s, there was far lesser appreciation and professionalism in defending and tactical, dietary and disciplinary standards were nowhere as high they are now.

Ask yourself — would Pele and Maradona be able to perform and score as many goals as Messi if they were playing now?

The answer is no. So instead of belittling and putting down Messi's achievements and talent, it's about time we embrace and give credit to the greatest player of not only this generation, but of all time.

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