Lionel Messi’s quest to settle the greatest of all-time (G.O.A.T.) debate remains on track after Argentina booked their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar.
A 2-1 victory over Australia sealed Argentina’s spot in the last eight where they will go head-to-head with Netherlands next weekend.
The latest football betting odds rate Argentina as favourites to progress past the Dutch team and keep their hopes of a third World Cup success alive.
Messi produced a moment of magic on his 1,000th career appearance, putting Argentina in front with a delightful finish to spark wild celebrations around the stadium.
The goal was the 789th of Messi’s glittering career and perfectly demonstrated how he still has the ability to change a game in an instant.
The 35-year-old has often failed to live up to expectations at the World Cup and his failure to lift the trophy is seen as a black mark on an otherwise impressive CV.
Many people argue that he cannot be called the G.O.A.T. unless he wins the World Cup, which seems harsh given what he has achieved during his career.
Croatia star Luka Modric recently waded into the debate, telling ESPN Argentina that Diego Maradona was a better player than Messi.
“For me, Maradona is the greatest,” Modric said. “With Messi, Maradona and Leo are the two greats, but Diego is Diego.”
While comparing players from different eras is often an exercise in futility, Messi’s claim to already be viewed as the G.O.A.T. are extremely strong.
He blows Maradona out of the water in terms of league titles and major European trophies, with his tally of 15 way ahead of the four won by his compatriot.
Messi’s longevity at the top level is another reason why he should be viewed more favourably than Maradona in the G.O.A.T debate.
Maradona’s lifestyle limited the time he spent at the top of the tree in football, although that period was undoubtedly a memorable one.
He was responsible for Napoli upsetting the established order in Serie A and was Argentina’s leading light in their success at the 1986 World Cup.
The Argentinian maestro netted five goals and five assists during that tournament in a team that would not have lifted the trophy had he not played.
However, suggestions that he is the G.O.A.T. based on winning a World Cup do a disservice to Messi, who has fired football into another stratosphere during his career.
He has tallied a whopping 1,122 goal involvements in 1,000 appearances – a staggering return that demonstrates he is much more than just a goalscorer.
Messi set a plethora of records during his time with Barcelona, including the most goals scored in a La Liga season (50) and the most assists in a La Liga campaign (21).
His tally of 91 goals in a calendar year in 2012 is unlikely to be beaten and further highlights the talent he possesses.
Winning the World Cup would be the icing on the cake for Messi, but he does not need the achievement on his CV to be classed as the G.O.A.T.