• Lionel Messi celebrates a goal for Barcelona (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The football world should bestow Lionel Messi with the highest accolade by proclaiming the Argentine wizard as the greatest player of all time.
Philip Micallef

18 Apr 2019 - 3:43 PM  UPDATED 18 Apr 2019 - 3:43 PM

There is no point in delaying the inevitable any more so let's stop pussy-footing about this.

The man from the land of the tango has danced his way past mesmerised opponents and into sporting immortality with the way he has taken the game to a new level.

The world game's constituents were left gasping for breath after yet another master class from Messi this week.

Barcelona's superstar produced a dazzling all-round display against Manchester United to help steer his club to the semi-finals.

Messi scored twice and was heavily involved in another goal in a 3-0 romp and his man-of-the-match performance confirmed his unequivocal status as the best player in the world.

No one - not even Portuguese predator Cristiano Ronaldo, red-hot Egyptian Mohamed Salah or flamboyant Frenchman Kylian Mbappe - has the dribbling, passing and shooting skills to go with the vision, speed of thought and capacity to influence a game which the Argentine possesses in abundance.

Ronaldo, Salah and Mbappe might be on a par with Messi in an area or two but as a complete package they fall way short.

The football fraternity certainly would be perfectly placed to give its verdict on whether Messi is indeed the greatest ever player.

I have maintained for a long time that Messi - for all his jaw-dropping brilliance - was still one step lower than a South American triumvirate that to me are football's all-time gods.

I refer to Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Alfredo di Stefano and Diego Maradona.

And, yes, I'm old enough to have seen all three in action many times.

However, since Messi keeps delivering at the highest level and is showing no signs of slowing down it would be impossible for anyone not to rate him as the greatest of all time.

He is at the peak of his mesmeric might at the moment. What more does he have to do to convince the doubters?

Sceptics will point out that Messi cannot be considered the greatest unless he wins the FIFA World Cup.

But why should 'team' results influence the appraisal of an individual's qualities?

Was it Messi's fault that Gonzalo Higuain missed a sitter with the score at 0-0 in the 2014 World Cup final before Germany went on to win the trophy?

Was George Best deemed any less skilful because he came from Northern Ireland and never played in a World Cup or European Championship?

Others will say that playing for such a star-studded side as Barcelona carries a distinct advantage when it comes to establishing a players' pecking order.

Pele, Di Stefano and Maradona did not play their club football for battlers, did they?

Pele formed part of the great Santos side of the 1960s that dazzled the world with their 'exotic' football based on eye-catching individualism and eccentricity.

Di Stefano led the star-studded Real Madrid team that won the first five European Cups from 1956, scoring in every final.

And Maradona won two Serie A titles with Napoli at a time when Italian club football was the best in the world.

There is also the old adage about not comparing players or teams from different eras.

If we compare movies and film stars from different periods surely we can do the same with football.

With all respect, would the three stars of yesteryear have coped with modern opponents who are unquestionably stronger, faster and technically and tactically superior though not necessarily better to watch?

Of course, such views about the game's individual hierarchy are highly subjective ... based purely on taste, sentimentality and nostalgia.

And to a degree they are inconclusive and not designed to determine anything.

Yet, for all it's worth, I have no doubt any more about football's hall of fame: Lionel Messi is the best and finest player I have ever seen.