CR7 acknowledged Messi greatness… Instances arch-rivals hailed Barca goat
33 years ago on this day, a genius was born. Little did the world know in 1987 that a certain Argentine genius would irreversibly change the world of football as we know it.
With Lionel Messi turning 33 today, it is imperative that we pay tribute to arguably the greatest player that the world of football has ever seen.
Lionel Messi made his debut for Barcelona in 2003 and has had a wonderful trophy-laden career at the Catalan club. The diminutive Argentine has won ten La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and six Copas del Rey trophies and is one of the most successful players in the history of the game.
The Argentina captain has delivered some iconic performances that will remain in the memory of football fans for generations to come. Lionel Messi has gone up against some excellent teams in the past and most of his opponents generally do not stand a chance against the pure genius of the Barcelona man.
In addition to the several records broken by the Barcelona captain, a host of legendary players and managers have had some pretty special things to say about Lionel Messi over the years. Here, we look at five of the best tributes paid to Lionel Messi by some of the greatest names in the history of football.
5 Sir Alex Ferguson, after the 2011 Champions League final
When Sir Alex Ferguson has something to say, the world of football listens. The legendary Scottish manager never minces his words and his take on Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola’s great Barcelona team tells you all you need to know but the Argentine great.
Barcelona steamrolled a talented Manchester United side in the 2011 Champions League final to win its second UCL title in three years. Lionel Messi proved to be the primary source of inspiration as goals from Pedro, David Villa, and the great man himself completed a comprehensive win.
After the game, Sir Alex Ferguson claimed that Barcelona was the best team he had ever encountered and singled out Lionel Messi for praise.
“Nobody’s given us a hiding like that but Barcelona deserve it. They play the right way and they enjoy their football. They do mesmerize you with their passing and we never really did control Lionel Messi.” Ferguson said.
Lionel Messi won several hearts on that historic day at the Wembley stadium and inspired one of the best Barcelona performances in history.
4 Wenger, after Messi’s Champions League heroics
Lionel Messi will be remembered for a string of great Champions League performances but on an individual level, his massacre of a formidable Arsenal side in the 2009/10 season will go down as one of the best performances by an individual in the history of the competition.
Barcelona was fighting an uphill battle after an early Nicklas Bendtner goal, but Lionel Messi put his otherworldly skills on display to take Arsenal to the cleaners. The Barcelona forward scored an incredible four goals to singlehandedly dump the Gunners out of the competition.
In the post-match press conference, Arsene Wenger acknowledged the Argentine’s greatness and claimed that Arsenal never stood a chance against a player of his stature.
“He’s like a PlayStation! I think he can take advantage of every mistake you make. Barcelona are a very good side but of course they have Lionel Messi who can make the difference at any moment in the game.”
Lionel Messi would go on to triumph against Arsenal yet again in the 2010/11 edition of the competition.
3 Modric presented Messi with the Ballon d’Or
Moments of tribute and appreciation between Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s superstars are exceptionally hard to come by.
Luka Modric, however, put club rivalries aside and paid a heartwarming tribute to Lionel Messi at the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony.
Luka Modric won the Ballon d’Or in 2018 after his exploits led Real Madrid to yet another Champions League title and also took Croatia to the final of the World Cup. The Real Madrid midfielder attended the 2019 ceremony to hand Lionel Messi his sixth Ballon d’Or.
In a message on social media, Modric also emphasised the importance of respect and revealed his admiration for Lionel Messi.
“Sports and football are not just about winning, they’re also about respect for your teammates and rivals.” said Modric on Twitter.
2 Bayern devoted a section of its museum to Messi
In 2012, Lionel Messi scored an astonishing 91 goals in all official competitions for Barcelona and Argentina. In the process, the little maestro broke several long-standing records.
In a single game against Real Betis, Lionel Messi surpassed Cesar Rodriguez and became the most prolific goalscorer in La Liga history. Lionel Messi also surpassed Gerd Muller’s 38-year-old record and scored the most goals by any player in a single calendar year.
Lionel Messi sent a signed shirt to Gerd Muller as a mark of respect for the legendary German striker.
“For Gerd Muller, my respect and admiration. A hug.”
Bayern Munich responded to the gesture by devoting an entire section of the club’s official museum to Lionel Messi. To this day, the Argentine great remains the only non-Bayern player in history to be represented in the club’s museum.
1 Ronaldo acknowledged Messi’s greatness
Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player in the world who can stake even the slightest of claims to Lionel Messi’s throne.
The Portuguese forward was engaged in a legendary battle with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for the better part of the decade and while the see-saw swung both ways, the rivalry between the two modern-day legends pushed both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to dizzying heights.
After Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid to join Juventus, he expressed his admiration for Lionel Messi and claimed that their rivalry was one of the best aspects of his career.
“I really admire the career Lionel Messi has had and from his side, he has already talked of the disappointment when I left Spain because it was a rivalry that he appreciated.”
Lionel Messi also found himself in an intense competition with Cristiano Ronaldofor individual accolades and Spanish trophies for the greater part of his career.
“I have no doubt that Messi has made me a better player and vice-versa. When I am winning trophies it must sting him and it’s the same for me when he wins.”
The testimonies of the legends on this list and countless other football visionaries are a testament to the sheer magnitude of Lionel Messi’s greatness. The world of football will surely be a much poorer place the day the legendary Argentine decides to hang up his boots.