Lionel Messi recently won his fifth FIFA ballon d’or. Is he now the undisputed greatest player of his generation?

The Argentine genius claimed the FIFA Ballon d’Or last week. An award voted for by International managers, captains, and media, it is given to the player who is deemed to have performed the best over the calendar year. Up until 2010, the award was named FIFA World Player of the Year. Lionel Messi has won this prestigious prize five times, twice more than any other player in history. There are many factors to consider when deciding who is the greatest footballer alive today. Messi’s achievements over the past ten years have led many people to name him not only the best player of today, but the best player to have ever played the game.

When determining who is the best player, what are the criteria? People will have different opinions on this, and there will always be different outcomes. I think the most important factor to be considered, is individual ability, along with longevity. Then comes honours won with their club, and country. After that, records should be considered (goals and assists).

The best player of his generation

To be the greatest player ever, it goes without saying that you must be considered the greatest player of your generation. Lionel Messi made his debut for Barcelona in the 2004-2005 season. He has now made 537 appearances, scoring 442 goals. His list of honours with Barcelona is astonishing. Seven league titles (La Liga), four UEFA Champions League’s, three Spanish Cups (Copa del Rey), six Spanish Super Cups (Supercopa), three FIFA Club World Cups, and three UEFA Super Cups. He has also won an Olympic gold medal, and the world youth championship, both with Argentina.

What Messi has achieved in his career, both individually, and collectively, is nothing short of incredible. Only one player over the last ten years can be compared to Messi, that is Cristiano Ronaldo. Without doubt, these two are the greatest players of their generation. They have received eight Ballon d’Or between them, one of the two has won the award every year since 2008. Both will go down in history as all-time greats of the game. The debate will continue as to who is the best; Messi or Ronaldo?

Both players have been at the top of the game for approximately the same amount of time. Ronaldo’s first Ballon d’Or came in 2008. Messi won his first a year later. Although Ronaldo’s career began in the 2002-2003 season with Sporting Lisbon, while Messi’s first team career began later, in the 2004-2005 season. Both players have continued to improve, to this very day, breaking goal scoring records for fun. As it stands, Messi has scored 442 career goals. Ronaldo has 463, albeit Ronaldo has over 100 appearances more than Messi to his name.

When it comes to major honours won, Messi comes out on top. He has won seven domestic league titles, compared with Ronaldo’s four. Messi has four Champions League winner’s medals (all won while playing for Barcelona), while Ronaldo has won the champions league twice (with Manchester United and Real Madrid). Altogether, Messi has won 28 competitions, while Ronaldo has won 16. Neither have a World Cup winners medal. The closest either of them have come to this was when Messi reached the final in 2014, with Argentina.

Based on individual ability, a case can be made for both, to be named as the best player of their generation. They are the best two goalscorers of the last ten years. Ronaldo is a born athlete, whereas Messi is a born footballer. Both players are equally matched when it comes to finishing, as their goal scoring records prove. Ronaldo would come out on top when it comes to physique, power, and heading ability. Messi is superior at passing, dribbling, and teamwork. They are both the perfect players for their current clubs (Real Madrid and Barcelona).

Messi is the best player alive today, by some distance. I have never witnessed any other player who possesses the same ability, grace, or style, as the 28-year-old Argentine. Add to that his goal scoring record, and his ability to perform in the biggest of games. His goals in two Champions League finals have been crucial, as was his incredible brace against Bayern Munich in last season’s semi-final. When it comes to pure footballing ability, Messi stands head and shoulders above his closest competitors.

I have always believed that Ronaldo is the best that any human footballer should be, but Messi somehow has eclipsed that throughout both of their careers. Both players have played at the top of the game for the last decade, both have been considered the best two players on the planet for the past eight years. They come out fairly equal when it comes to goals scored in their careers, and records broken. Messi edges it with honours won, both individual, and with his club and country. What separates them for me, is the excitement, and expectation that Messi can create while playing the beautiful game. Ronaldo can do things on a football pitch which can be explained as incredible, superb or unbelievable, but when Messi is at the top of his game, he does things which can literally leave anyone speechless. That is why in my opinion, Messi is the greatest player in the game today, and possibly the greatest player ever!

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