Messi maintains modesty
Lionel Messi has ordered a reality check amid hype suggesting he could be the best player of all time.
By Jamie Casey
Last Updated: 23/03/10 5:00pm
In-form Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has ordered a reality check amid hype suggesting he could be the best player of all time.
The modest Argentine has hit the headlines with two hat-tricks in consecutive Primera Liga games, taking his recent tally to 11 goals in just five games.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney has also hit the headlines with his prolific form of late, but the incredible quality of Messi's goals has excited critics.
The 22-year-old is now being touted as not only the best player in the world but one of the best of all time, a tag he is reluctant to accept just yet.
Messi insists to be considered a true legend of the game you must own a World Cup winning medal and is trying to remain composed in the midst of the propaganda.
"To become a legend, to be great, you also have to win a World Cup," said the Argentina international, who will compete on the biggest stage in South Africa this summer.
"I have only just turned 22," he added. "It's all happening very quickly and you have to stay calm."
Despite his claims, Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and George Best are among those widely considered to be all-time greats, without having won the World Cup with their respective nations.
Messi is instead being compared to 1986 World Cup winning compatriot Diego Maradona, who also played for Barcelona and is now in charge of the Argentina national team.
Others have likened the 5ft 7in forward to Brazilian legend Pele, a three-time winner of the Jules Rimet trophy, but Messi feels such comparisons so soon is disrespectful to the established greats of the game.
"I never intend to disrespect anyone," Messi told El Mundo. "I just play football in my own way."
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is also keen to shelve the limelight on his player and insists Maradona remains the greatest player he has ever seen.
"The comparison with the best players of all time can only be made when he retires," he said. "For my generation, Maradona is the greatest that we have seen and I don't think that will change."
However, the Barca coach believes Messi will continue to shine at club level and has pleaded for his prized asset to be allowed breathing space to develop.
"We have to let Leo get on with his career because he is very young and we need to give him continuity, for the good of the game," added Guardiola.