Sport

Messi misses the mark as greatest goal scorer 'of all time'

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on December 1, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on December 1, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. David Ramos / Getty Images

BARCELONA star Lionel Messi is the greatest player in the world at the moment, of that there can be little doubt.

But is he the greatest goal scorer in history?

We live in a statistics-ruled world and the modern football era is no different, but does quantity mean more than quality?

Does it mean that because one player scores more goals than another he is the greatest of all time.

For me that answer is no.

Different generations spawn different types of players, and comparing them is pure folly.

In my opinion Jimmy Greaves was the greatest goalscorer of all time.

Bill Shankly, the ex-Liverpool manager, reckoned Dixie Deans who once scored 60 goals in a season for Everton in the 1920s and managed 379 in his league career in 438 games for Tranmere Rovers, Everton and Notts County, and 18 goals in 16 games for England, was the best and even said there would not be better.

"Dixie was the greatest centre forward there will ever be," Shankly once said.

"His record of goalscoring is the most amazing thing under the sun. He belongs in the company of the supremely great ... like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt."

While I might not be as glowing in my praise for Greaves, I loved the way he scored goals.

And in 602 appearances for Chelsea, Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham, he scored 422 of them - not a bad record by any stretch of the imagination.

So what was it about Greaves?

Well, he had it all as far as a goalscorer was concerned.

He could score the spectacular, he could find the target with his head and he could finish off team moves.

But what Greaves possessed was a calmness in front of goal I have not seen in any other player.

While other strikers of his (1960s) and any generation might take a swipe and miss as many as they score, Greaves would, some might say casually, stroke the ball home - he just took it all in his stride.

For England he scored 44 goals in 57 appearances, statisically not as good as Gerd Mueller but I thought Greaves was a better finisher than the German.

Mueller was, of course, the best of his generation (1970s).

He scored at an unbelievable ratio of more than a goal a game for Germany - 68 in 62 international appearances.

He struck home 365 goals in 422 Bundesliga matches for Bayern Munich and netted 66 times for his club in 74 games in European competition.

But still I would prefer to watch Greaves, maybe that's because Mueller scored a lot of his goals in crucial games against England.

Mueller was a goal poacher - he could do nothing for 89 minutes and then pop up to score the winner.

Never would a manager take the German off as his ability to get a goal out of nothing for a coach was priceless.

Messi, on the other hand, could still have his best years ahead of him.

The Argentine is magnificent player and a good finisher, of course he is, otherwise he wouldn't have scored all his goals.

But as a pure goalscorer, he lags just behind Muller and Greaves.

His two goals against Cordoba in the Spanish Cup took his tally for 2012 to 88, three more than Muller, who fired in 85 in 1972 at the peak of his powers.

Messi has 287 goals in 354 appearances for Barca in all competitions.

For Argentina he has scored 31 goals in 76 outings.

And for me that's the point of difference, doing it at the highest level.

Messi has not achieved the international status of Greaves, Muller and of course, Deans, who was of a totally different generation altogether.

As I say we could yet see more from Messi and then we might be able to say he's the greatest goalscorer.

But he's not there yet - not for me anyway.
 

Topics:  barcelona fc, european champions league, football, lionel messi, soccer



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