Why GOAT Should be Pronounced Messi

Jaime Halstuch
Staff Writer

My grandfather told me about Pele and that 1970 Brazil team and about Di Stefano’s Real Madrid; my father told me about the Clockwork Orange in 1974 and Maradona in 1986; I am going to tell my kids about the best team of all-time Guardiola’s FC Barcelona and about the best player on that team, Lionel Messi. Who after winning his 8th Ballon d’Or this past October, in my opinion consolidated his argument as the greatest player of all time. Making an argument for the GOAT is not easy but I am going to try my best to convince you why I think Messi is the GOAT.

Messi had a weird career, he started at just 4 years old at Grandoli in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina and then moved on to Newell’s Old Boys (one of two big clubs in Rosario) when he was seven years old, where he was diagnosed with growth hormone disorder at age eight. When he was 13 in the year 2000, he was recruited by FC Barcelona where he would do a trial. On December 14th of that year and after an agreement for Barcelona to pay for his treatment, the club would sign an agreement to sign him. FC Barcelona officially signed him on January 8th, 2001. After a rough start with injuries, he would show all his potential in Barcelona’s youth teams. On November 16th, 2003, and at only 16 years of age, the first team coach at the time Frank Rijkaard would sub him in in an exhibition game against Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto. However, he would only consolidate his place in the first team during the 2004-2005 season. Messi would score his first official goal after a Ronaldinho pass against Albacete for La Liga. He would play the 2005 U20 World Cup in the Netherlands, where Argentina would win that tournament and Messi the Golden Boot and Golden Ball. One month later, against Juventus in the Joan Gamper Trophy, the world would see his true potential.

Capello at the time training Juventus asked Rijkaard in the middle of the game for Messi on loan, of course Rijkaard said no. After the 05/06 season and already a UCL and La Liga Champion, Messi would receive the Golden Boy award, the rest is history. 20 years after signing for FCB he would then go to play at PSG and after Inter Miami. As of November 2023, Messi has won 4 UCL’s, 10 Spanish leagues, 7 Spanish cups, 8 Spanish Super cups, 3 UEFA Supercups, 3 Club World Cups, 2 French leagues, 1 French Super Cup, 1 Leagues Cup, 1 Olympic Gold, 1 U20 World Cup, 1 Finalisima, 1 Copa America, 1 FIFA World Cup, 8 Ballon d’Or, 3 The Best FIFA Men’s Player, 3 UEFA best player in Europe, and 23 goalscoring trophies. All of that with an approximate of 1.15 Goals/Assists per game.

After a small recap of his career let’s get into his GOAT case. I have a list of five games that I think could summarize his case. The first one is a league game against Real Madrid in Santiago Bernabeu during the 08/09 season, where he shows himself as a false 9 and shows himself as a great player in every offensive phace of the game. The second game is again in Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid but this time in the first leg of the 10/11 UCL semifinal. During this game Messi really showed his individual capabilities, and his ability to play at the top level in a very heated match. The third one is the 14/15 Copa del Rey final vs Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou. During that game Messi scores a goal that many defined as impossible, he accelerates from 0 to 19.5 MPH in 2.73 seconds with the ball in his feet and with opposition players all around him, he decelerates in 2 seconds to dribble the defenders, and then strikes the ball at 48 MPH, with a margin of error in the strike of 1.5 MM. He did almost 60 yards while dribbling in only 11.4 seconds. The fourth game is in 2017 with Argentina in the final game of the World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador in Quito (9,350 feet above sea level). With an absolutely destroyed team that had lost confidence in their coach, with squad that did not make any sense Argentina started the game as the 6th seed, 2 seeds behind direct qualification spots. Ecuador scored after just 40 seconds, and then Messi scored a hat-trick to win the game 1-3 and qualify Argentina for the World Cup. One of the first games was where he showed his leadership skills, and once again his ability to carry a team. The last game that could summarize Messi’s GOAT case is the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar vs France. A game that is the cherry on top, a tribute to a spectacular career. Messi played a perfect game; he scored two goals and scored his penalty kick in the shootout. He showed his technical and tactical abilities, his leadership skills, and his resilience. Those are just 5 games out of many in which Messi proved his case to the world.

Messi added on to his already legendary resume by leading Argentina to a victory in the 2022 World Cup Final against France (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Messi has shown the world that persisting and insisting is the only option, after losing four finals with Argentina and retiring from the national team for a couple of weeks, he came back and won a Copa America against Brazil in Maracanã, the Finalisima against Italy the European champion in Wembley, and the World Cup against France (the defending champion) after Mbappe had underestimated South American soccer. And with that he also proved many of his doubters wrong, since they would always say that he could not win with Argentina and that he needed a super team to win. When the team that won those three international trophies had a coach that debuted as a coach in top level soccer with this Argentina team.

Messi has also been criticized for not being there in important games. Sadly, for his haters, numbers do not lie. The five clubs that have received the most goals from Messi are: 1. Sevilla (38), Atletico Madrid (32), Valencia (31), Athletic Club (29), and Real Madrid tied with Real Betis (26). We are talking about the five biggest clubs in Spain. He is also the top goal scorer in “El Clasico” history. Not only that but against the English Big 6 he has 27 goals and 6 assists in 35 games, just to put in perspective, Cristiano Ronaldo has 28 goals and 8 assists in 64 games. On top of that Messi is the only player in history that has scored in every phase in a single World Cup. He scored in two out of the three Champions League finals he played in. And in the most important game of his career the World Cup final in Qatar he scored 2 goals. For those who think Messi is not there in important games, stop lying to yourselves.

Messi is the perfect example of what Maradona could have been if he took care of himself and did not have that many scandals. And for me that is exactly why Messi is above Maradona in the GOAT standings. Completing the top three with Messi and Maradona, there is Pele. Just like Messi and Maradona, Pele played in the best league in the world during his prime. I think Pele is second on the podium, above Maradona and below Messi. But what makes Messi be above Pele? Messi is more versatile than Pele. “O Rei” was more dominant in the box, he had a great header, and he was a pioneer in many of the dribbles we see today. But Messi dominates every phase of offence at a level Pele never did.

Pele, one of the greatest players to ever play soccer (Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

If it was only for his statistics, he would still be the best of all time. If it was only because of his impact in the sport, he would also still be the best of all time. If it was only for the magic he displayed, he would also be the best of all time. What Messi has done in and for soccer is something never seen before, and it is going to be hard to see it again. During your next thanksgiving give thanks that you lived to watch the guy that dominated a team sport like it was never done before. 8 Ballon d’Or, 35 team trophies (the most by any soccer player), and 23 goal scoring trophies, millions of surprised faces, smiles, tears, and memories, make up Lionel Messi’s case for the Greatest Player Of All Time. Enjoy him, watch him as much as you can, never stop watching his highlights, because there is only one GOAT, and his name is Lionel Andres Messi Cuccittini.

Contact Jaime at jaime.halstuch@student.shu.edu

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