Last weekend, Lionel Messi became the first player to score 50 goals in a Spanish season.
The Barcelona and Argentina superstar has, to date, netted 31 in La Liga, eleven in the Champions League, seven in the Copa del Rey and three in the Spanish Super Cup.
This amazing feat has, understandably, led some pundits to ask whether he is the greatest player ever.
For many who grew up long after Pele had kicked his last ball, and who remembered seeing Diego Maradona
more often on the front pages than the back, Lionel Messi’s performances in recent years have quickened the pulse like no other.
There can be little serious argument that he is the best player in the world right now and one can only imagine what he might do in the next few years.
Few players combine pace, skill and strength like Messi does. A strong header of the ball and an excellent reader of the game, he can legitimately claim to be the most complete player in world football.
But could he be - at the tender age of 24 - the greatest of all? Or is this just another case of the hype merchants getting ahead of themselves again?
The challenge facing Messi is to maintain this level of play for several more seasons to establish himself as one of the
greatest players of all time. He must also achieve success with his national team.
In recent years there have been several players who cemented their reputations alongside Pele and Maradona. I’m thinking about Michel Platini, Ronaldo (the Brazilian), and Zinedine Zidane. There is no doubt Messi has all the tools to join these players at the top of the tree - and if he continues in his current form he will achieve it.
Put simple: Messi has to play at this level for the next two or three years with his club and with Argentina to be judged as the greatest footballer ever.
On the other hand, you have to put the genius of a player into the context of his time: Messi is really exceptional considering the fact that his opponents nowadays have far more physical and tactical ways to stop him compared to Pele’s or Maradona’s times.
Direct comparisons between players of different eras are always difficult, especially in a team sport, but this time it makes sense to compare Messi with Maradona.
They’re so similar both from a physical and technical point of view, they play more or less in the same way and they are solo players more than team players.
Messi has already won everything - but with Barcelona: a great club with a great history, near perfect organisation and wonderful team-mates.
Maradona, on the other hand, succeeded in winning Serie A and a UEFA Cup with a small club, Napoli, with almost no tradition, and a questionable organisation.
So, is Lionel Messi the best player of all time? Not yet. Messi lacks at least two things: He has not shown his talent in the world’s best league - the English Premier League - and he hasn’t shown it in football’s most important event: the World Cup.
If Messi is able to lead Argentina to the World Cup (like Maradona did) and if Messi is able to bring his skills to the English Premier League, he will surely continue his path and someday maybe become the best player of all time.
But he has only played his best with Barcelona. With Argentina he is not the same player. He has not yet shown his talent during a big tournament like the World Cup.
To compare him with Pele or Maradona, he has to win the World Cup or at least be brilliant in one. And, of course, if he wants to surpass those two, he must continue for many years because, at 24, he is just at the start of his career.
Leo Messi is not yet the best player of all time, but the fact that the question is being asked about a 24 -year-old just shows what an extraordinary talent he is.