Messi -- The Name Is Enough - III

Rajendra Kshetri *

Messi has often been compared with Maradona due to their similar playing styles. Both are diminutive, left footed and amazing dribblers. Add to that is the fact that Messi is the greatest player Argentina has produced since Maradona. Jorge Valdano, who won the 1986 World Cup alongside Maradona, said "Messi is Maradona everyday".

To Cesar Menotti, who as manager guided Argentina's first World Cup victory in 1978, Messi plays "at the level of the best Maradona". However, other Argentine greats such as Osvaldo Ardiles; Javier Zanetti and Diego Simeone are of the opinion that Messi has overtaken Maradona as the best player in history.

Maradona himself said "I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentina football and his name is Lionel Messi. Messi is a genius." Calling Messi a 'genius', Franz Beckenbauer, the German great and the only man to have both captained and managed World Cup-winning teams (1974 and 1990) said "Messi is a divine player, he is God-like."

Tough as it is, if one looks with a sense of objectivity at the Maradona-Messi comparison on and off the pitch, Messi could be said to be a notch above Maradona in more ways than one. For one thing, in terms of pure statistics, Messi has won more trophies/titles than Maradona. Messi has scored more goals for Argentina (97) than Maradona (34).

For another, Messi's longevity of consistency level is much higher than Maradona. For the past twenty years and more, Messi has been the best almost every year of his career, and still delivering. Thirdly, both off and on the pitch, Maradona is controversial and not known for humbleness and humility while Messi is humble and respectful of his peers. Messi is humility personified.

Last but not the least, Messi has superior agility, diverse repertoire of skills. As Pep Guardiola, the best coach Messi has ever had in his life, said, "Everyone has an opinion, but no one can doubt that Messi is the greatest of all time".

"Messi is the best in history", Guardiola went on to say "and my opinion on that would not have changed even if he had not won the World Cup with Argentina on Sunday against France." No one could have said better than this about Lionel Andres Messi being the GOAT.

Ronaldinho, the Brazilian legend and WC Winner (2002) and arguably the most aesthetic player of 21st century, is very empathetic that Messi is the greatest player the sport has to offer and said, "He is the best in the world, and there is nothing more to be said ".

To Marco van Basten, the Dutch legend, "Messi is one of a kind. Impossible to imitate and impossible to repeat. A player like him comes along every 50 or 100 years. As a kid, he fell into the football genius pot ". Van Basten was categorical when he said "Those who say Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Messi don't know anything about football, or they say it in bad faith".

The best came from Radoneir Antic, Serbian football manager, who said "Messi is the Mozart of football". Even Sergio Ramos, one of the best Spanish defenders in the world and old-on field rival of Messi during their La-Liga days in Spain, who now plays alongside the Argentine at PSG, has admitted Messi is football's greatest ever player.

"There was suffering for several years playing against Messi", the 36 year old former Real Madrid player told PSG TV (Feb 4, 2023) , "I am now enjoying him. He is the best player football has ever produced".

A little known aspect of Messiís style is his inimitable way of simplifying what is sophisticated. He plays football like any other but made it look so easy and simple when in reality it is not. Watching Messi play reminds us of what Leonardo Da Vinci said "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".

Fifty years from now, people will scarcely believe that such a diminutive person in flesh and blood ever walked on this planet earth to play football.

What makes Messi a cut above the rest is the fact that there is no aspect of the game he didn't excel, be it goal scoring, assist, dribble, play making, free kick, game reading. His stunning goal against Mexico in World Cup 2022 is that kind of a goal a player can only dream of. And the two assists he made against Netherlands (quarterfinal) and Croatia (Semifinal) at the Qatar edition of World Cup were simply incredible.

Out of this world. Something to be seen to believe, particularly the one against Croatia when Messi mesmerized and outfoxed the world's best defender Josko Gavardiol, 15 years younger than him, on the byeline, before passing it to Alvarez for the finish. Messi performed these prodigious feats at 35, an age when most players have/would have called it a day. It spoke volumes of Messi's tenacity and staying power on the pitch.

A rare quality unrivalled. Messi's 'never-give up ' attitude on and off the field lends more credence to his status as the greatest. As Ben Affleck, the Hollywood actor, said after his film "Argo" won Oscar for Best Picture (2012- 13), "It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life. That is going to happen. All that matters is that you've got to get up".

It is well known how Messi gets knocked down time and again after repeated failures to win World Cup in 4 attempts (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018) and Copa America (2016). He has also been accused many a times of being more Catalan than Argentine. Any other person/player in his place would have been knocked down for good. But no, not Messi. He is not the type to cave in.

Undeterred, Messi got up time and time again, and proved all the smart alecks wrong by winning both Copa America (2021) and FIFA WC (2022) . 'Never ever give up ' is one motto, one philosophy that Messi has consistently shown and is associated with from his childhood days to world cup winning days.

What serves as an added value to Messi's credentials as the 'Greatest of All Time ' is his persona and personality. In most cases, persona and personality are not always compatible. More often than not, one's persona is different from and/or may even stand in contrast to one's personality. Rare is the case when one's persona is similar or seems to be similar and complementary to one's personality. Messi is such one rare case.

Messi, in the eyes of fellow players and fans alike, is caring, compassionate, considerate, creative, kind, nurturing, and respectful. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Messi is not arrogant and boastful. All through his professional career, Messi has been and is still a thorough gentleman. Always a team-man and ego-free, he never puts himself above the team.

Both off and on the field, Messi has never been about himself. It is difficult to find a grey area in his professional and personal life. Messi is an ISFP personality type meaning he is Introverted, Sensing, Feeling and Perceiving.

A happily married man, married to his childhood love Antonela Roccuzzo, Messi is deeply a family man. A faithful husband and caring father of three sons, Messi has a strong moral compass. By all accounts, Messi is the perfect Role Model in both public and private spheres.

For all his footballing achievements, trophies, titles, awards and world records, and he has seen and won them all, Messi is a grounded man. He doesn't put on airs, nor does he throw his weight around. He never forgets his humble background. That of a little shy boy born in a working class family. Despite the world at his feet, Messi always stays true to his noble self.

The shy little boy from Rosario has come a long way. He came to play football. He saw football. He played/plays football. And he conquered the universe of football. The unassuming simple boy is now sitting on Top of the World.

Pompous as it may appear/sound, but Messi never consider himself as the best. He is never worried about being the greatest. To be a good human being is more important to him than any title or award. In his own words "I am more worried about being a good person than being the best player in the world. When all this is over, what are you left with".

Such humbleness ! Such humility ! Such words of wisdom! From the Greatest of All Time. The GOAT. This is Messi. LIONEL ANDRES MESSI. The Name Is Enough.

* Rajendra Kshetri wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Professor of Sociology at Manipur University, Imphal.
This article was webcasted on March 02 2023 .

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