Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is on his way to becoming perhaps the greatest footballer of all-time according to the Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. Furthermore, prior to this weekend’s El Gran Clasico, as Barcelona travel to the Bernabeu to face bitter rivals Real Madrid, Cruyff has stoked the flames by suggesting that Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most expensive player ever and Real Madrid’s star man, may not be as good as his Argentinian counterpart.
The imperious Messi, still only 23, has been named FIFA World Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons, during which time he has lead Los Cules to eight trophies, and helped himself to a sensational 95 goals in 99 matches. This season alone he has helped himself to a staggering 48 goals in league and cups. No player in the Spanish league has ever scored 50 goals in a single campaign.
“Yes he’s on his way,” Cruyff said, when asked how close Messi was to greatness. “He’s just played now four years or something like that and the others have played at least 14 years, so he’s got 10 more years to go with same quality and, hopefully, the same success.”
Cruyff also compared Messi to the likes of Brazilian legend Pele, the most revered Real Madrid player of all-time Alfredo Di Stefano and Argentina’s favourite son, Diego Maradona.
“[Messi’s] got qualities similar to Maradona, who was a player, too, who did a lot of individual stuff,” added Cruyff.
“People will connect a good player with the results they achieved in their career and Maradona of course won the world championship and that’s what Messi didn’t win and it will be [decided on] something like that. But for me, today, Messi is a great player.”
However, whilst Cruyff was full of admiration and adulation for the Barcelona idol, he was a little less comlimentary of Portugese international Ronaldo. Although, the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year has scored an eye-opening 39 goals this season, and been an indispensible component of Mourinho’s Madrid, Cruyff is far less than enamoured with the Madeira-born player and his technique.
“A little more difficult, I think,” Cruyff said about the former Manchester United man.
“All the people mentioned were players from the street and Ronaldo is more of a physical player, while in the others mentioned are not physical players [but] pure technical players – pure technique.”
Barcelona and Real Madrid go head-to-head in four Clasicos spread over 18 days, meeting in the league on Saturday evening, the final of the Copa Del Rey on Wednesday in Valencia, before doin battle over two legs in the Champions League semi-finals for the chance to meet Manchester United or Schalke 04 at Wembley on May 28.