Seville, Spain – In this day and age of hyperbole and super-hyperbole, it's easy to call players of any sport a superstar. It seems they're a dime a dozen.
When it comes to someone like Lionel Messi, the opposite is true.
Trying to find the right words to describe the Argentine and Barcelona standout has become a sport in itself for writers.
What word would you use to describe him?
Magnificent? Superb? Fantastic? Fabulous? Incredible? Mega-star? Or perhaps it is word that has not been invented yet. Messi-anic?
After Messi broke Gerd Mueller's world record of 85 goals in a calendar year in Barcelona's road encounter at Real Betis on Sunday, a simple word -- amazing -- could describe what this humble person of such great stature, although that pales in comparison to what he has accomplished and what he probably will achieve over the coming years.
Thanks to modern TV technology, the entire world has the ability to be entertained by Messi's scoring feats live, instead of just reading about his heroics or seeing it later on video.
Messi is the best player on the planet today. If he doesn't win his fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or next month as the FIFA World Player of the year, it will be astounding and a major investigation should be started (teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo are the other two finalists).
Whether Messi is one of the greatest of all-time, it still remains to be seen.
He certainly deserves a high orbit, but he still has a lot of history to make whether he will be soar next to the names of Pelé and Diego Maradona, for example.
For all of Messi's achievements with Barca, he still has not won the big one on the international level -- the World Cup. Argentina has stalled in the quarterfinals in Messi's two tries (in 2006, when he wasn't used very much, and in 2010, when he had a disappointing performance under the enigmatic Maradona). But with the 2014 World Cup being hosted by Brazil and Argentina winning both of its world championships in the Western Hemisphere (1978 at home and 1986 in Mexico), the time and setting would be perfect for the the South Americans to parade around with the FIFA World Cup trophy one again.
Messi has blended much better with Barcelona than with his national side and let's face it, these days, playing for one's club is more important than a national team. This is especially true for many established players because a player's team pays his way , while the younger, up-and-coming players, trying to make a good impression, will rely on competitions such as the World Cup to impress to earn big bucks.
Argentina doesn't necessarily have to win it for Messi to put his final stamp on international soccer, but a scintillating performance and going deep in the competition -- semifinals or to the final -- certainly would do the trick. Remember, the great Johan Cruyff of the Netherlands -- another Barcelona standout who never won a World Cup (the Dutch lost in the 1974 final), is revered as one of the best.
As strikers go, the 25-year-old Messi has at least five more years of high-quality soccer remaining to entertain and tantalize us with, barring injury or a surprising downward slide in his game.
Given this season's performance, he seems to be only getting better.
Now, that’s scary thought for opponents, huh?
For the rest of us mere mortals, just sit back and enjoy the show.
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He is in Columbus to cover Sunday’s game, and can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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