The modern footballer is a wealthy, globally recognizable star. The top players on the big teams, elite guys like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney are icons, and the players who are not on that level or playing for non-traditional powers are still well known and major attractions for advertisers and headlines. With that being said, I also say this: Lionel Messi, as great as he is, is not Pele. He’s not even Maradona. And he may never be.
Messi is so good that the mythical title of world’s greatest player has not been in dispute the last two years. Actually Messi and Ronaldo, the clear second best player have separated themselves so much from the rest of the pack the only comparisons for them that can be made are with the all time greats. And therein lies the biggest knock on Messi.
As great a player as Messi has been, his achievements have been almost exclusively on the club level. Barcelona has used their considerable resources to surround Messi with some of the most talented players in the world. They, along with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City have created a chasm between themselves and the other teams domestically by throwing millions of dollars at player after player to win every year. George Steinbrenner would be proud of the zeal in which these team owners collect stars and assemble teams.
More than half of the World Cup winning team from Spain wears the red and blue of Barcelona and that incredible collection of talent and cohesiveness is breath taking to watch and almost impossible to defeat. Champions League, La Liga and World Club titles have all been won by Barcelona in the last three years, prompting talk of them being the best club team of all time.
Messi has not been able to even come close to matching those accomplishments with his Argentine national team. And when you want to be named among the greatest of all time, the measuring stick is World Cup titles. Pele won his first at seventeen in 1958 and his 3rd in 1970. Maradona went to two finals, winning in 1986 and finishing second in 1990.
While the Brazil teams of Pele and Maradona’s Argentina teams were comprised of some of the best talent in their eras, the Argentina team that played in the 2010 World Cup also had very good not great players and a plethora of world class strikers. But led by Messi and coached by Maradona they couldn’t even make the semi-finals. Its worth noting that the only international title Messi has won is the 2008 Olympics gold medal.
One of the true marks of greatness is elevating the play of others around you. While the current crop of Argentine players may not be as good as some of years past, they are still one of the top 10 national teams, and that doesn’t figure to change before the next World Cup.
Having the transcendent best player of this generation should make them the prohibitive favorite for the next trophy in 2014, but if Messi doesn’t raise his game even higher when he puts on the Albiceleste jersey, his place in the pantheon of greats will reside below the likes of Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo (Brazil) and Zidane.
I’ve been closely following this crazy NBA season, and the more I see him, the more I think Derrick Rose’s playing style is the closest I have seen to Allen Iverson (minus the cornrows.) Like Iverson, I don’t see him having a long NBA career, because at the rate he’s getting dinged up, he will quickly lose his speed and once he does, he’s an average PG.
The baseball season starts this week, and my NY Yankees are reloaded for another pennant run. The AL is going to be stacked this year, with Texas, Detroit, Anaheim, Boston and Tampa Bay all legitimate contenders for a World Series spot.
In the National League, I don’t think any team can beat the Phillies, but I do think the Washington Nationals will be a contender this year. They are putting together a good young team in DC, and they will make the NL East interesting this year. Pitching is the major factor in a 162 game season, and the Nationals have some good arms on their team. They will be fun to watch.
Congrats to Calabar High School and Edwin Allen High School for winning the 2012 Boys and Girls Champs respectively. Penn Relays is coming up, and should be quite competitive. Some of the best individual performers at Champs; Shauna Helps, Delano Williams, Tiffany James and Shericka Jackson look like they will have very bright futures in track.
Check out the times below for the fastest US high school 4×400 times in all of 2012:
3:14.88 DeSoto, Tx
3:15.12 Boys & Girls, Brooklyn, NY (indoor.)
3:15.16 Timberview, Mansfield, Tx
Below are the times for the top three boys finishers at Champs 2012:
3:10.19 Calabar HS
3:12.64 Kingston College
3:13.64 Jamaica College
The Girls 4×400 breaks down like this:
3:43.01 Wakefield, Raleigh (indoor)
3:45.16 Lancaster, Tx
3:47.49 Garden City, NY ( indoor)
3:47.56 Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale
3:47.70 DeSoto, Tx
3:48.86 American Heritage, Plantation, Fl
3:49.25 Medgar Evers, Brooklyn (indoor)
The top three HS girls finishers at Champs 2012:
3:38.91 Vere Tech
3:44.51 Edwin Allen
Here’s to a great, competitive track season coming up in 2012!