by Ifada Johnson
If Messi is regarded as the best footballer, can he ever be a better defender that Baressi?
His name may be Messi but he shows no mercy and leaves his opponents messy.
234 goals at only 24 years of age, and he still has a lot of years ahead to shatter all the records and rewrite history. They call him the greatest footballer that has graced the world of football. Football commentators have almost made his name synonymous with ‘greatest, best, each time you watch a Lionel Messi play, you will be forgiven if you concluded that his middle names are such adjectival descriptions.
But, is he the best footballer ever? I am not anti-populist. I don’t necessarily have to go against the crowd for no cogent reason. Although being independent minded is my console. My answer to that question is a resounding NO! The realisation that in life it is pretty normal for some to be celebrated more than others is almost forcing me to stop writing at this point. But I will resist. Note that I am not trying to convince you or make you see reasons with my point of view. It is my opinion. Read it and make your inference.
I appreciate the rationale behind the decision to honour an individual as the best of the pack of footballers. But like all things in life with pros and cons, this decision has rubbed off on our appreciation of the ‘best footballers’ out there. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the best footballer has to be he/she who scores the most goals. Players with attacking tendencies have made the honour theirs for keeps. Yes, they display a lot of flair and skills on the ball. They mesmerise their opponents into submission. They score some out-of-this world goals that leave our mouths open in awe. How about their dribbling abilities and pace on and off the ball? Always fascinating.
Each time Lionel Messi scores a goal or makes an assist, somebody somewhere records it down. But I ask: who recorded the number of successful tackles that Franco Baressi made in his career as one of the best defenders the game has seen? Who recorded the number of saves that Lev Yashin made in his career. Who recorded the number of interceptions Frank Rijkaard made as a player? Is it that these statistics are just not important enough to be recorded?
How about a goal keeper? How often has Iker Cassillas singlehandedly ‘won’ matches for Real Madrid over the years? A goal keeper is the last man in the defensive set up and has to be on top of the game for a team to get a positive result off a game.
I join my voice with many who have clamoured for the return to the former system where players are honoured according to their positions. If Messi is regarded as the best footballer, can he ever be a better defender that Baressi? Can he be anything near Oliver Khan? Can he run up and down the flanks Cafu or Roberto Carlos did? Can he marshal the midfield like Andrea Pirlo. There is a reason why there are 11 players on a team; they complement each other and play individual but important roles.
Calling Messi the best footballer ever is like referring to soap as the ultimate cleaner. It will do a lot of cleaning but can it be a substitute for toothpaste? If still in doubt try it tomorrow morning.
At the end of the day, life is not fair.