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Messi seals legacy as greatest soccer player of all time

Nassef Sawiris
Adam Sawan (’24) and Neel Roy (’25) wear shirts representing soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. These two players have gone head to head for the last 15 years, causing debate regarding which one was is better.

Players, journalists, managers, legends, social media stars and celebrities gathered in Paris Oct. 30, 2023, to decide who was the player of the year, through the Ballon d’Or. After hours of celebrating the 2022-23 season and giving out other awards such as the Kopa Trophy, Gerd Müller trophy, Yashin trophy and the Socrates Award, David Beckham announced that for the eighth time in his career, Lionel Messi was the winner of the Ballon d’Or.

After winning everything there is to win in soccer – arguably for the final time – Messi was celebrated as the world’s best player. However, his legacy goes far beyond this title. Now, without a shadow of a doubt, he is history’s greatest player.
Contributions from Messi and Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo often defy description. It’s safe to say that for a decade and a half, Messi and Ronaldo dominated soccer. The pair have nine Champions League titles between them, 18 league titles, seven Club World Cups, 1600+ goals and a further 550+ assists. At this point, it is undeniable that Messi and Ronaldo are the best soccer players of all time. But as the curtain falls on an era defined by greatness, many fans still debate over which player is worthy of the “greatest of all time” title.
Whenever fans argue about players, there are objective facts and subjective arguments. The objective facts refer to the players’ statistics, awards and trophies they’ve accumulated during their careers. The problem with the Messi-Ronaldo debate is that in all of these statistics, there is not much to distinguish between the two.
Ronaldo has scored more goals than Messi, but Ronaldo has played more games than Messi in his career.

On the flip side, Messi has far more assists, but given the less advanced position he plays in, it is much easier for him to create scoring opportunities. In Ronaldo’s case, excluding his initial stint at Manchester United, the Portuguese forward has alwas often found in goalscoring positions throughout his career. Ronaldo has won more Champions League titles, but Messi has won more League titles.
According to the website Messi vs. Ronaldo, even when they both played in Spain for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, there was not much to separate the two players on the stats sheet. For years, they’ve gone head to head, competing at the very pinnacle of soccer. During that period, any debate between the two had been a 50/50 split in the public’s eyes.
Because of this, it’s easy to fall for the myth that these two players are on the same level in terms of ability. While they are both phenomenal players, one clearly stands out as the winner of this debate. The last 18 months have overseen a drastic shift in favor of Messi.
There is one trophy Messi has won that Ronaldo lacks. All of the absolute icons of the game have won the World Cup, soccer’s greatest prize. Pele, Maradona, Zidane, and Beckenbauer have all lifted the famous trophy, and now Mess has had his turn. Ronaldo won the European Championship with Portugal in 2016 which was a massive success for him and the country. For years, Messi’s lack of international success meant many pundits considered Ronaldo ahead of the Argentinian in the GOAT debate. Messi, on the other hand, had not won anything with Argentina and became the subject of scrutiny.

Although he managed to win the Copa America in 2021 and in 2022, in what was likely to be the last World Cup of his career, he put in one of the greatest individual displays ever and brought Argentina to glory. Messi was the player of the tournament after scoring seven goals in seven games and becoming the first player in World Cup history to score at every stage of the competition. He was also awarded five man-of-the-match awards throughout the tournament, for the first time in history as well. His recent success has been a defining moment in his career.
When it comes to attacking the opposition, Messi can do it all. He can run in behind the opposing team’s defense, he can drop into the midfield and can pull out wide. At no other time was this more apparent than in 2012, when he scored a staggering 91 goals in a calendar year, setting a record that will be almost impossible to break. In all of these positions, he has consistently delivered. Messi can unlock a defense with a perfectly weighted pass, or he can dribble through his opponents. Messi can run a game in a way that Ronaldo is incapable of doing.
Messi’s superiority on a soccer pitch was there for all to see during his prime years; few defenders could lay a glove on him. Messi fools his opposition with genius body feints, changes of speed and precise ball control. The Argentinian does things most legends of the game have never done, and he does it four or five times in a given game. In terms of talent, there has clearly never been a player like Messi.
To say that Messi is the greatest of all time is not a criticism of Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a legend of the game and deserves the utmost respect from fans. But at the end of the day, while Ronaldo was running off to retire in the Saudi Pro League, Messi was becoming a world champion.

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About the Contributors
Theo Van Zyl, Media Team
Theo van Zyl ('26) is a member of the Media Team for The Standard in Advanced Journalism.
Nassef Sawiris
Nassef Sawiris, Lead Sports Editor
Nassef Sawiris (’25) is the Lead Sports Editor for The Standard, and this is his third year in the publication. Sawiris began his journalism career 5 years ago on the Middle School newspaper, The Scroll. His love for writing covers various topics with the common goal of arguing his opinion and educating the community on issues he feels passionate about. He continues to actively participate in other extracurricular activities such as his role on the varsity soccer team along with his leadership position in the Investment Club.

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