At these altitudes, it is difficult to establish comparisons, necessarily biased.
Pelé, the only footballer to have won three World Cups (1958, 1962, 1970), has never played for a European club.
Maradona, 1986 world champion and finalist four years later, never won the European Cup of Champion Clubs, ancestor of the Champions League.
Conversely, Messi has accumulated an immense record, almost unrivaled, with a World Cup (2022), a Copa America (2021), four Champions Leagues, a multitude of championships and national cups... and seven Ballons d' Gold.
"Messi won his first World Cup, as his trajectory deserved," acclaimed Pelé (82) on Instagram on Sunday, with a nod to Maradona, who died in 2020. "Congratulations to Argentina! Diego is certainly smiling."
It will be difficult to balance the exploits and the eras, given the increase in the number of matches played over the decades, the increase in the number of trophies to be gleaned and the expansion to the whole planet of the Ballon d'Or, first reserved for Europeans.
"The Best of History"
But with this 41st collective trophy won among professionals, not counting a World Cup for the under-20s, the little Argentinian (35) quantitatively relegates Pelé, Maradona, Zinédine Zidane, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Johan Cruyff or even Franz Beckenbauer very far.
A man reads a newspaper in Jakarta, Indonesia the day after Argentina won against France in the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar on November 19, 2022 © ADEK BERRY / AFP
"Messi, the best in history", dared on the front page of the Barcelona sports daily Mundo Deportivo on Monday.
One of the rare players to be ahead of Messi in the number of trophies won is his former partner at FC Barcelona, Dani Alves, who has 43. But this is not to insult the Brazilian side, still present at the World Cup at 39 2022 than to consider that he may not remain among the sacred monsters of the sport.
Messi "is the greatest player in history," former Senegalese striker El-Hadji Diouf told AFP.
"There are players who have won the World Cup but who will never be Ballon d'Or. I believe that the hardest trophy to win is the Ballon d'Or. Among the best, you have to be the best. And I believe that the debate has been closed for a very long time", he argued even before the final.
Messi, already seven times Ballon d'Or, has all the cards in hand to win an eighth trophy for the best player in the world this season, which would relegate his eternal rival and first pursuer, Cristiano Ronaldo (5 Ballons d'Or) to three lengths. 'Gold).
Impossible to know if the stainless Ronaldo (37 years old) will still be there at the World Cup-2026 with Portugal to try to join Messi in the pantheon.
But the proud 'CR7' seemed to bow to the Argentinian in November, describing 'an incredible, magical, top player', 'a great guy doing great things for football'.
A matter of aura
Moreover, apart from Ronaldo (819 goals in his career), few footballers before Messi have shown such regularity in performance, piling up goals (793 in 1,003 professional matches), collective trophies and individual awards.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Ghana in front of a banner glorifying Lionel Messi in the group stage of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar at Stadium 974 in Doha on November 24, 2022 © MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP/Archives
A constancy hailed on Sunday by former England international striker Gary Lineker: "It was an absolute privilege to see Lionel Messi play for two decades. Joyful, bewitching, breathtaking football. It's a gift of the gods of football. I am delighted that he has lifted the ultimate trophy in our sport," he tweeted.
Pelé, again, claims more than 1,283 goals, but many were scored during international tours, outside of official competitions.
For Maradona, the comparison is played elsewhere: it is a question of aura.
The discreet personality and natural shyness of Messi have earned him unfavorable comparisons with the charismatic Maradona, a loud talker and assumed cunning.
In 2019, Pelé himself established a hierarchy: "If you ask me if Maradona has been better than Messi, yes he has been. Much better."
Perhaps it was this ability to make the feat a routine, to repeat, match after match, the disconcerting dribbles, the devastating accelerations, while keeping a low profile, which gave Messi an air of normality which serves him wrong. .
Maybe, or maybe not, but undoubtedly the most constant.
© 2022 AFP