Lionel Messi's detractors have a problem.The amazingly talented Argentinian attacker isn't just good for Barcelona anymore, eliminating most of the criticisms of his game. For years, critics, blowhards and "experts" alike have attacked Messi for not doing enough on the international level. Argentina's failures have been unnecessarily, and unfairly, placed on Messi's back to the point where he resembles Atlas, struggling to hold up the Earth.
It's never helped that Argentine fans and media, along with observers from the rest of the soccer world, have expected Messi to singly handily lead the national team to success. The older and fatter Diego Maradona gets, the more nostalgic people get about his accomplishments and the bigger and more grandiose they become. At this rate, by the time I'm an old man people will remember Maradona's accomplishment, especially from the 1986 World Cup, as one man alone defeating the English and West Germans by shooting lightning bolts out of his ass.
Lionel Messi is not Diego Maradona, which is a good thing. It's not fair to compare Messi to Maradona because the game is so much different today that it was 26 years ago. Despite that, people love to compare them and they love to hold the accomplishments on the international stage by Maradona over Messi, because his Argentine teams have not reached the heights that Mardona's reached.
Once again, Lionel Messi is not Diego Maradona. In fact, he's better ... much better.
The sooner fans of the game realize this the happier they'll be. But in order to break away from their nostalgic love for Diego, they'll need to stop living in the past. Something that is incredibly difficult for soccer fans to do ... just look at England.
Messi has played 340 senior level matches in his club career with Barcelona, scoring 265 goals. He's done that in less than six seasons. Maradona made 589 appearances in 20 season, scoring 311 goals*. At this rate, Messi will pass Diego in career club goals as early as next season. Hell, he could do it this season.
*Assists left out as they were not tracked during Maradona's entire career.
Well what about for the national team, surely Diego's greatness over Messi will be shown there, right? Maradona earned 91 caps for Argentina over 18 years, scoring 34 goals. Messi has 75 caps in eight years and 30 goals. Messi will pass Maradona's goal total during this World Cup qualifying cycle. I do fully realize that Messi gets far more international games now compared to Maradona, and I'm sure if he was playing 10-15 games a season for Argentina during his prime, he might have bigger numbers. But he didn't, so get over it.
The point of all this is not to demean Maradona's accomplishments, far from it. The guy was a legendary player, he did things people had never seen on the soccer pitch, and despite his penchant for ridiculous behavior, his on-the-field accomplishments are worth remembering, but it's time to stop trying to compare these two players.
The idea that Messi doesn't do anything for Argentina is one of the dumbest myths in the modern game. Messi is not to blame for Argentina's coaching and personnel problems over the past few years. He's accomplished so much since he was first capped at the senior level in 2005. Unfortunately for Messi, he hasn't won a World Cup and that fact alone is enough for many people to try and claim he's ineffective at the international level.
Hopefully some of those chuckle-heads watched his performance against Uruguay on Friday night. If you are one of those chuckle-heads, here are the highlights.
We're entering a window in which we're likely going to see the best that Messi has to offer for Argentina. He has a talented roster assembled around him, but more importantly new head coach Alejandro Sabella has calmed things down and put the captain's armband on Messi. This is his team now and there's no longer any question about what needs to happen for Argentina to be successful.
Does that mean they're going to win the next World Cup? Who knows. The answer is 'probably not', but it doesn't matter. If you chose to gauge a player's value solely upon winning easily the hardest tournament in the world to win, then you're missing the point.
Messi is a better all around player than Maradona' and while I'm sure he would love nothing more than to lift the World Cup trophy, that should not define him. Pretending anything else is either a desperate attempt to cling to the past or a complete unwillingness to see the truth of the matter. Either way, you're robbing yourself of enjoying greatness, and isn't that the entire reason we watch?