Lionel Messi is a four-time world Player of the Year, he is Barcelona's all-time top goalscorer with 313 goals, he has won three Champions League titles and six La Liga titles - all achieved by the tender age of 25.

This season the forward scored in 19 consecutive La Liga games, becoming the first footballer in history to net in consecutive matches against every team in the league.

There is no question that Messi deservedly boasts the name of the world's best player, but is he truly the greatest in history?

We take a look at which players can possibly challenge Messi as the 'greatest of all time'.

Pele was a formidable player in his time, scoring over 1000 goals in his career. He won the World Cup three times with Brazil, the first in 1958 at the staggering age of just 17, the forward sent shockwaves through the world of football with his remarkable talent.

Messi on the other hand is yet to lift any trophy of significance on the international stage and many critics will argue that until he lights up a World Cup, he can be never regarded as the greatest.

However, Messi has performed at the top level of club football and with Pele's failure to feature in Europe, other critics claim that in not doing so he, in turn, cannot be the best.

Messi is often viewed by our next contender as his successor; Diego Maradona. The charismatic star was undoubtedly one of the finest players to grace the game.

His unique skill and mastery with the ball help hail him amongst the best. The former Argentina manager scored what by many describe as the best goal of all time against England at the 1986 World Cup. He also won the World Cup and famously inspired a 'small time' Napoli to a league win.

Yet despite all of his accolades, Maradona's off-field exploits helped limit his playing career and simultaneously tarnished it. Most notably when he banned for use of cocaine in 1991.

Johan Cruyff is our third nomination, the outspoken Dutchman was a glorious player throughout his playing career. The former Ajax legend is viewed by many as the catalyst of Barcelona's recent success and unique playing style, Cruyff was inspirational in changing the whole ethos at the Catalan club, a platform that Messi has certainly taken advantage of.

Despite not winning the World Cup like Messi, Cruyff was very much the spearhead of the famous Ajax and Holland sides of the 1970s. His idea of 'total football', attacking style helped transform the game and his footballing ability certainly reflected his philosophies.

Cruyff was voted European footballer of the century as a result of his achievements.

The turn of the century was Zinedine Zidane's era. The Frenchman's grace and manipulation of the ball was really a thing of beauty, so easy on the eye but effective at the same time. Zizou famously scored the winning goals in the 1998 World Cup final against favourites Brazil.

He went on to net what many regard as the best goal scored in a Champions League final during his spell at Real Madrid. But Zidane's superiority soon came to an end, his shameful head-butt on Italy's Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final was his final act as a professional and did, to a degree, blight his career, costing his country the trophy.

Then came the emergence of the man nicknamed the 'little flea' by the Barcelona faithful. Messi has provided his audience with some superhuman displays, still so young and breaking records left, right and centre, and if he is able to replicate his club performances on the international stage then surely no one can dispute that little Lionel is the best of all time? 


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