Recently, viagra Lionel Messi, malady while playing for Barcelona against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, scored five goals in a 7-1 victory. This was an unprecedented accomplishment in the world’s biggest club competition and one which drew the now-familiar wave of plaudits from football experts around the globe. Wayne Rooney tweeted that the little Argentinean was the best ever, former Arsenal striker Alan Smith declared that Messi had now surpassed Maradona’s greatness, and Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola gushed that we will never see his likes again.

A frequent difficulty when assessing players is defining what it means to be a ‘great’ footballer. Under anyone’s criteria Messi would appear to have it all. His close-control is frightening, his finishing lethal. He has pace, he has vision, and he has guile.

There is no histrionics and no selfishness in his game. He is a consummate team player and yet, in a side widely believed to be one of the greatest in football history, he is by far and away the shining light. His humble personality and honesty on the pitch also set him apart when compared to other would-be great players of the modern era. His attitude is outstanding and he has never been found wanting in the biggest matches. To top it all off, Messi just seems like a genuinely nice guy.

Some would claim that his inability to turn it on at the World Cup detracts from his prestige. But it was not Messi’s fault that he was part of the Maradona circus at the 2010 finals in South Africa, and even then his overall performance was hardly poor. Besides, the international stage is no longer the yardstick for measuring greatness. That mantle has passed to the Champions League. At only 24, Messi already has three Champions League medals and has scored in two of the last three finals.

The route to the top has not always been an easy one for Messi. Aged just 11 he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, which in part explains his diminutive frame. Barcelona were aware of his talents though and were ready to take a gamble on the teenage Messi.

Their belief in his potential is shown by their agreement to pay for his medical treatments. The club have been rewarded for their investment and then some. He has scored 138 goals in all competitions in the last three seasons for Barcelona, while this season he is on course to break his record 53 goals in the 2010-11 season.

Obviously comparing players of different generations is a subjective exercise and one that will never provide a definitive answer. The problem for the younger generation is that our knowledge of the former greats (Pele, Maradona, Best, Cruyff, Dalglish, etc.), is largely confined to selective video clips and the rose-tinted memories of older fans and pundits. What cannot be argued is that Messi is the greatest player of our generation and for anyone under 30 must surely count as the greatest player they have ever laid eyes on.

It’s difficult to know how Messi can get any better but the good news for fans, and unsettling news for defenders, is that he has not hit his prime years yet. Provided he doesn’t squander his talent, a lá Best and Maradona, football supporters and all genuine sports fans have another 10 years or so to cherish this rare talent.

And 30 or 40 years down the line, it is fair to assume that when an outstandingly talented player emerges on the scene, they will inevitably be compared to the likes of Cruyff, Maradona, Best, and Pele. But there will also be another name on that list of greats. Barcelona and Argentina’s little genius, Lionel Messi.

Neil Glacken