Barcelona, Dec 11: Many argue whether Lionel Messi is the greatest ever or just one of the best of all time. The Argentinean, now only 25, has won the biggest prizes at club level but is yet to win a major competition at the international level- the World Cup or Copa America.
Messi recently broke Gerd Muller's 40-year old of number of goals scored in a calendar year after netting twice in 2-1 win at Real Betis, taking his 2012 tally to an incredible 86 goals.
Muller's 85-goal record comprised of 72 goals for club Bayern Munich and 13 for his country West Germany and he took only 60 games to achieve that feat, while Messi took 66 games. However, out of Messi's 86 goals, only 12 were scored for Argentina, mostly in friendlies and wihtout any true significance.
Muller's record made more sense during 1972, he helped West Germany win the European Champions scoring six goals and his total tally of 68 goals in 62 matches for his country is far better than Messi's 31 goals in 76 matches for Argentina.
Over the decades, many legends came and went but the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona, Muller, Bobby Charlton and Ronaldo (Brazil) are considered the best players the game has ever produced. The difference is clear, all these former players won the World cup but Messi has scored only one goal in the biggest stage of football.
But with three Champions League titles, five La Liga crowns, two Club World Club medals, Messi's talent on the pitch cannot be doubted but would he remain the same wihtout the influence of Xavi and Andres Iniesta in Barcelona
Barcelona without Messi is Spain, who recently became the only team to retain the European Champions and are considered the greatest ever team in the world, but Messi without Barca is questionable.
Xavi and Iniesta have been crucial in Messi's development over the decade since he joined Barca's youth academy La Masia. The two playmakers have achieved more success in the last six years than any other player in the world.
Known as the Flea, Messi's development from a child suffering with growth hormone deficiency to become the World's Best Player thrice, is truly an inspiration. He could become the only player to win the FIFA Ballon d'Or four times in a row.
Watching Messi run through walls of defence is unbelievable and sometimes he doesn't require the help of his teammates. Defenders cannot catch up with his speed and with the ball stuck to his feet like a magnet, the balance and control displayed his unmatchable.
But what he really needs is international success and has a chance to achieve that milestone at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when he turns 27, a players prime period. Until then the argument of who is the greatest ever footballer will continue.