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Lionel Messi one step closer to greatness, but one mountain left to conquer

Messi becomes Barcelona's highest ever goalscorer but only once he wins a World Cup can he overtake Maradona and become the greatest football player of all time.

After netting a hat-trick against Osasuna on Sunday to become Barcelona's all-time record goalscorer the million dollar question raises its head again...Is Lionel Messi the best footballer to ever grace the game?

While that may be a very difficult question to answer and a question that has been debated since what seems like time immemorial, the period is rapidly approaching where we have to seriously rethink Diego Maradona's position as the one who stands above all in the greatest player stakes.

How fitting then that it should be El Diego' compatriot, indeed the one that he deemed his 'successor', to challenge in almost relentless type fashion for the imaginary honour, picking up records and tearing them to shreds with a mesmerizing run here or a casual swipe of the boot there.

A much easier answer to deduce from Messi's latest exploits is that we can now say without hesitation he represents Barcelona's greatest offering to the footballing world. Now I know some may note a sense of contradiction there. How can Messi be Barca's greatest ever player but not the sports greatest player full-stop since Maradona too turned out for the Catalan outfit?

Well by the very fact that Maradona only spent two seasons with them in what was a difficult tenure to put it mildly. First there was a bout of hepatitis, then a broken ankle caused by an ill timed tackle by Athletic's Andoni Goikoetxea that threatened to end his career.

Despite recovering the former Argentina captain's time in Spain was punctured by frequent disputes with the team's directors, especially club president Josep Lluis Nunez, culminating with a demand to be transferred out of Camp Nou in 1984. Even then Maradona managed to score 38 goals in 58 games.

By comparison Lionel Messi has enjoyed relative serenity in his time with Barcelona, stretching back to 2004 when he made his senior debut. That amounts to a decade of being allowed to flourish at one of the world's biggest football clubs, the centre-piece of the Xavi-Messi-Iniesta triumvirate. Fair play to Messi for making the very most of that platform and for that he deserves to be recognized as Barcelona's top boy.

But to be the very, very best it is about being more than just that. How well you perform on the global scale should be the ultimate yardstick that is measured when weighing up the greatest player debate.

That is of course the World Cup and on that score Messi falls short, at least for now. Whether that is because he hasn't been good enough in previous tournaments or due to the unmitigated disasters that have surrounded him, such as Maradona's time in charge of the national team in a hint of irony, it does not really matter.

At 26-years-old Messi there is still plenty of time ahead of him and what is most important is what he does with that. If he can be an influential figure on the road to an Argentina World Cup win, either in Brazil or four years later in Russia, then he would have matched Maradona's feat of Mexico 86'.

He has pretty much outmatched his idol everywhere else. Surely then the most tantalizing football question of all will be resolved.

Do you think Messi can become the world's greatest player or is he already?








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