After his team had been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Barcelona, Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola took a moment to comment on the player most responsible for his defeat: Lionel Messi.
Guardiola said of the player who twice helped him win the Champions League with Barcelona:
“He is the best player of all time. I compare him with Pelé. I am so happy to see this football. He is back, he is there where I had the privilege to train him. He is definitely back at his best.” [Guardian]
Compared to Pele. Now we really are getting into new territory with Messi and the best player debate, as I suggested in a previous post.
Guardiola may be somewhat biased since he is a former manager of the player but on the other hand he is now managing another team and has been able to experience first-hand just how hard it is to beat a team with Messi on it. So if Pep says that Messi can be compared to Pele, that really changes the conversation for me. I’d really like to be able to add Messi to our Best Ever poll – which Pele currently leads by the way – but I still feel that current fans will be more likely to vote for current stars and that would unbalance the poll. I don’t know if you can properly poll this question: Messi vs Pele. One thing that might work though is to talk to veteran soccer people like Guardiola and get some kind of consensus that way.
One way or the other, one thing that is becoming more true is that the Messi-Cristiano debate now occupies a level lower than the one which pits Messi vs Pele – who for most of the world has been known as the best player ever, forever.