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Is Lionel Messi really the greatest ever without winning anything at the International stage?

Can we finally settle a debate that has been and will rage on for years to come?

Lionel Messi Argentina
Lionel Messi led Argentina to three consecutive major finals in the last three years

“I like Messi because he doesn't think he's Messi…He plays like a child enjoying the pasture, playing for the pleasure of playing, not the duty of winning.” – Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan Writer and Poet  

It was this pleasure of playing that seemed to have abandoned the diminutive forward’s eyes when he lost for the third time in three years a major tournament final in the national team’s colours. The burden of having to win to prove his standing seemed to have finally taken its toll. Hence it does not seem to be as surprising to the few who understand, that Lionel Messi has decided to call time on his career in the nation’s colours.

After years of carrying teams on his deceptively less athletic shoulders. Lionel Messi can be forgiven for calling time on a dream that was to remain unfulfilled. There’s an entire squadron of people who will snigger and snarl at Messi’s claims as the greatest player of all time.

“What has he ever done with Argentina?”… “He’s no Maradona!”… “He’s nothing without Xavi and Iniesta.” 

The cries keep echoing even now amongst fans, as a player described by an entire world of footballers as the game’s greatest miracle, walks into the sunset having not won the day. The question that really bothers one remains thus:

“Is he really that good if he can’t win a trophy with his national team?”

The question is as pertinent as it is impudent. Year on year, Lionel Messi has achieved feats that others can only dream of. How is that even fair for anyone to ask? You can clearly see he is the greatest ever from the way he plays week in week out. Or can you? He has nothing to show for his National Team efforts. Or does he?

You look at 5 Ballon D’ors to fight that case for him. However, if you must compare his trophy record, it is a glaring miss that his national team prowess cannot be measured in terms of golden statuettes his trophy cabinet holds. However, look at how his record stands for his national team.

If he indeed retires today, there is still hope in some quarters that he will reconsider, what does his national team record say?

#1 55 goals in 113 games

#2 Argentine Footballer of the Year in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015

#3 FIFA World Player of the Year 2009

#4 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball 2014

#5 FIFA World Cup Dream Team 2014

#6 Copa America Dream Team 2007, 2011, 2015

#7 Record Goalscorer for his National Team

He may not have won a trophy for his national team but the truth remains that he has done almost as much as anyone in his national colours, a fact that is often overlooked by those who seem to measure everything with a trophy.

– A look back to the FIFA World Cup in 2014 will tell you he’s been at the forefront of his team’s best efforts to earn a trophy on the international stage. In this tournament, he claimed Man of the Match awards in the first 4 games, scoring and assisting in crucial results all through. It was only in the final that Argentina faltered and Messi could do nothing to bring them out of the slump in a game which they should have won had they taken the due chances created.

– In the Copa America 2015 semi-final, he won over a hostile crowd by playing a part directly or indirectly in all six goals against Paraguay. Opposition fans applauded him when the game came to an end.

– In the recently concluded Copa America Centenario, his ability was on display even more distinctly. In spite of the injury that had threatened to keep him out of the tournament completely right before the competition began he came back with a bang against Panama.

These were how he’s spent his peak years as a footballer for his national side. He doesn’t have a World Cup or Copa America trophy to show for it, but does that undermine any of what he has achieved individually during this time which in itself far exceeds the records held by his more illustrious predecessors?

The debate is an open one and the opinion that stands in this piece is that he has done all that he could to drag his team upwards, but football is a team game at the end of the day and Lionel Messi can only achieve so much on his own. It is a matter of debate and subjectivity again but it may stand true that the likes of Higuain, Aguero, Di Maria have all failed to take the burden of the team’s need for success when it has mattered the most.

That does not mean Leo has achieved any less with his National Side than is expected of him.

The Greatest Player on the Planet

Lionel Messi Ballon d'Or
A record 5 Ballon d'Or wins for Lionel Messi stands as a testament to his prowess

How do you win 5 Ballon D’Ors in an era where there are players like Cristiano Ronaldo to compete with? How do you win 8 La Ligas, 4 Copa del Reys, 6 SuperCopa Espanas, 4 UEFA Champions League trophies to go with triumphs in 3 UEFA Super Cups and 3 FIFA Club World Cups?

You play for a World Class team of course! But was every trophy that he has his name on, talk about his team’s class alone? Of course not, He’s got 40 odd individual records to his name to add to those trophies he has in his cabinets. He has 500 career goals and he is still 29-years old. He has won almost every prize possible at club level.

He has been the one constant in all of Barcelona’s achievements. Henry and Eto’o came and went, Pep Guardiola came and went, Zlatan and Pedro came and went, Xavi came and went and Luis Enrique has come and may go. However, Leo Messi has remained and while he has remained, Barcelona have been successful.

It is no mean coincidence that Barcelona has won 28 trophies with Lionel Messi around. It is no mean coincidence that Messi has 5 Ballon D’ors. It’s an aberration that he hasn’t won a World Cup or Copa America to prove his standing. However, does he really need any of it?

– So, he hasn’t got a trophy count for his national side. However, can you count his trophies and records in one breath otherwise? The answer is No.

– Does he bring a genuine joy and excitement to the faces and hearts of people who watch him play? The Answer is Yes.

– Has he achieved much more individually than any of his peers and predecessors? The Answer is Yes.

– Does he still have a few more years in him? The answer is Yes.

– Is he the Greatest Player of All Time in spite of his National Team Stumbles?

Feel free to opine differently but The Answer, from where we stand is….

  • Yes.
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