At the weekend, Leo Messi struck twice against Granada as Barcelona came from behind to win 2-1. Nothing unusual about that, you might think. It was though,
the 14th game in a row in La Liga that the Argentina had scored. Last season was scarcely plausible, such were the heights Messi reached, scoring 91 goals. Yet this year Messi is maintaining that same remarkable standard. 13 goals in 2013 so far, at the current rate it will be close to 100 by the end of the year.
The goals against Granada last weekend mean Messi now has 301 goals in a Barcelona shirt, in just 365 games. Messi has 37 goals in La Liga alone, which is utterly remarkable for two reasons. One because it means that if he scores for the 15th game in a row, then he will be guaranteed to finish the season with a record of a goal per game in the league, and that with almost half the campaign remaining. It is also incredible because until the 2010-11 season, the all time record for goals in a La Liga season was 38, held by former Real Madrid forward Hugo Sanchez and Athletic Bilbao’s Telmo Zarra. That Messi will more likely than not break that milestone with 13 games remaining is nothing short of outstanding. Cristiano Ronaldo is languishing in second place in the rankings with a ‘mere’ 24 goals in as many games, and Radamel Falcao has 20. These are stratospheric stats from a player who is literally out of this world.
What it all means is that Messi has now managed to decisively end the ongoing debate over who the best player in the world is. Perhaps he was just bored of the comparisons with Ronaldo, more likely, given his humble nature and detachment from the celebrity and glamour of what he has achieved, Messi has done this without realising. But Ronaldo has now been left behind, languishing in Messi’s wake.
The first time young Leo stepped outside to play football with his dad and older, taller brothers, they saw he was a phenomenon. His first coach, Salvatore Aparicio, was left gobsmacked as Messi’s first involvement with his team as a child saw him skip past one, two and then three challenges instantly. So remarkable was it, that Aparicio cannot even remember if Messi then scored or not, so lost was he in amazement at the youngster’s capacity.
'The Flea' has not stopped playing like that since, a raw diamond without need for polishing. He continues to excel, to marvel and shine far brighter than any of his peers. The world now sees Messi through the eyes Aparicio did all those years ago. And probably Ronaldo included.