At the moment the answer would most likely be a resounding “Yes” considering Lionel Messi’s torrid scoring run and his great form. However, one would only need to look at Argentina’s matches to see how the talented Messi who is widely regarded as the best player in the world becomes just another good player. In fact the Barcelona version of the player can be considered as unplayable and near impossible to stop while the Messi who plays for Argentina is still a quality player but one who can be somewhat restricted.
Messi’s form for Barca puts him alongside some of the best players in the world in the last two decades including Zinedine Zidane and the Brazilian Ronaldo (when healthy and at his peak). Messi will surpass both and perhaps be considered one of the best ever if he can lift the World Cup trophy in South Africa 2010. At the tender age of 22 he has already won the Spanish la Liga and the Champions League not to mention the historic sweep of all titles available the last campaign. This is in itself a great achievement which cannot be underestimated but for him to be considered amongst the best ever, Messi must win the World Cup with Argentina.
This season Messi has already scored more goals than he did last season in all competitions and his 27 goals in la Liga are more than the 23 he managed last season in the domestic league. Messi’s form with Barca does not translate to his caps with Argentina where his performances are deemed as less impressive and not as great. The main reason is the fact Barca have a better structured team with more talented players and a vastly superior coach in Josep Guardiola. Diego Maradona might be one of the best players to ever grace the football field but he was never admired for his character and his limited coaching skills leave a lot to be desired. Guardiola took over as a young coach but proved he had the tactical knowledge but more importantly he knew how best to use Messi and the current talent at his disposal. The fact Guardiola spent the majority of his career at the Camp Nou helps as well while Maradona had limited coaching experience prior to taking over Argentina and has shown he is clueless when it comes to bringing the best out of Messi.
Argentina have quality players and are not a bad team but Maradona has failed to surround Messi with the right players and has not been able to employ the proper system which turns Messi into the focal point in the national team. In Barcelona Messi can rely on the talented and underrated Xavi Hernandez to thread in pinpointed passes and provide incisive assists. Xavi was one of the main architects behind the triumph over Real Madrid and he is by far one of the most reliable and effective midfielders in the world. Messi also has the likes of Andres Iniesta, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Daniel Alves who provide ample support in terms of passing, assists and diversion to free up the Argentine genius and give him more space to roam freely and operate.
The answer to the question why Barca’s Messi performs much better than the Messi who represents Argentina could be simply down to the one way to stop the young star: Hire Maradona and make sure Messi is not surrounded by the appropriate squad. Could the main obstacle preventing Messi’s rise to claim the crown of one of the best ever be none other than Maradona (a former great and the current Argentina coach)? Some believe Maradona’s ego and desire to safeguard his status as Argentina’s best ever is behind Messi’s shortcomings while others simply attribute this to Maradona’s utter incompetence as a tactician.
Will Messi carry Argentina all the way to the final and help his country claim a third World Cup title to cement himself as not just this generation’s best player but one of the best ever to play in the history of the game? Only time will tell and barring any injury Messi has about three chances (World Cup 2010, World Cup 2014 and World Cup 2018).