DOHA: Thirty-seven club trophies, seven Ballon D’Or awards and six European Golden Boots.
On Sunday, the 35-year-old Argentina captain has the chance to fill the last remaining hole on his CV: a World Cup winner’s medal.
For Messi’s most ardent admirers, victory over France at Doha’s Lusail Stadium will settle the debate over where he ranks in the most exclusive inner sanctum of football’s pantheon.
Does a World Cup win on Sunday nudge him ahead of that exalted company? Some think it does. Others think he already stands alone.
“I don’t have any doubt saying that: he is the best in history,” was the verdict of Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni after Messi’s virtuoso display in the 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia.
Messi’s career achievements to date have already earned him the right to be mentioned in the same breath as Pele, Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano and Johan Cruyff.
For Burruchaga, Messi has been the greatest player of an era where only Cristiano Ronaldo can rival his achievements. But the 60-year-old says comparisons with previous generations are futile.
“Win or lose, Messi is not more or less than Maradona,” Burruchaga told AFP.
“Messi is going to be in history whatever happens”.
“There are five players in the past 70 years who can be considered the best in the world — Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Pele, Maradona and Messi.
Messi’s fifth World Cup campaign has arguably been his best, thriving as the attacking fulcrum of a balanced Argentina starting line-up assembled by Scaloni.
For much of the past decade it seemed as if he was destined to fall short in his quest to land a major title with Argentina.
The soul-destroying extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup started a run of three consecutive major final losses.
In 2015, a star-studded Argentina side lost the Copa America final to Chile in a penalty shootout. A year later, the Albiceleste were beaten again by Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario, Messi missing a penalty in yet another shootout defeat.
In the immediate aftermath of that loss, a shattered Messi announced his retirement from international football, in what turned out to be a short-lived exile from the nation team.
He returned months later and was back to lead Argentina at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But a mostly shambolic tournament ended in the last 16 with a 4-3 defeat to eventual champions France.
After a third-place finish at the 2019 Copa America, Argentina finally ended their wait for a major title with victory at the 2021 tournament, beating arch-rivals Brazil in the final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
With five goals already in Qatar, this is already Messi’s most successful in terms of goals scored.
“I don’t know if it’s my best World Cup or not,”Messi said after the Croatia win.