So you have probably heard, this past weekend Lionel Messi topped Gerd Mueller's record with 86 goals in a calendar year for both club and country. He reached that mark in 67 games (Mueller achieved 85 in 60 games) for a pace of 1.28 goals per game in 2012.
The "greatest ever" argument is a tireless narrative in almost every sport. Games, rules and society change while players rarely get a chance to play each other or even face common opposition (Ronaldo and Messi being a rare occurrence). Undoubtedly the greatest of today's game get's compared to heroes of the past, because of course sports are about competition so why shouldn't there be a competition for best player ever?
Lionel Messi is only 25 years old, and could possibly play another 10 years. His career still has many stories left untold. But that doesn't take away form what he has already accomplished at this point.
Messi has played 352 games for Barcelona (1st team) in all competitions and put in 283 goals since 2004. He is of course a member of one of the greatest club teams in history winning in that span: 5 La Liga titles, 3 Champions League titles, 5 Supercopa titles, 2 Copa del Rey titles, 2 UEFA Super Cup titles, and 2 FIFA Club World Cup titles.
His time in Argentina blue had been a bit less impressive, being capped 76 times for the senior team with 31 goals. With the Argentines he won the U-20 World Cup and the 2008 Olympic Gold.
Some will argue that Messi's achievements are a function of the spectacular Barcelona squad that he plays for. But of course Barcelona would not be such a dominate team without having Messi these past years. There is no way to say which one would miss the other more (unless Messi were to ever join a less talented squad).
For comparisons sake, Cristiano Ronaldo is the only other player on the planet close to Messi's talent. His career stats are quite good as well: 490 senior club games (Sporting, United and Real) with 290 goals. 100 caps and 37 goals for Portugal. 3 Premier League titles, with 1 FA Cup, 1 Champions League title, 1 Club World Cup title, 1 La Liga title, 1 Copa del Rey, and 1 Supercopa title.
The agrument of who Messi is trying to take the "greatest ever" title from is also up for debate, but usually comes down to either Pele or Maradona.
Maradona achieved 311 goals in 589 matches over his 22 year club career. He added 34 in 91 for Argentina. His teams won honors in Argentina, Spain, and Italy, with his beiggest achievement being the World Cup win with Argentina in 1986. The Argentines also finished 2nd in the 1990 World Cup.
Pele did the "bring soccer to the US" thing long before Beckham. His career stats are also impressive (*Note the accuracy of records kept in Brazil in the 50s through 70s can be questioned, but they can't be too far off): 1033 goals in 1120 games for Santos over 18 years, another 64 in 107 for NY Cosmos totaling 1097 in 1227 games.
His international record is perhaps more impressive with 77 goals in 92 games. His Brazil squad won the World Cup 3 times in 1958, 1962, and 1970.
All of these players certainly have/had impressive careers. Being that I never saw the older players when they were playing, I am one to lean towards Messi, a player who seems far and away better than everyone else he plays against. We may know the answer in 10 years, or we may be debating whether Neymar (or someone else) is the greatest ever. All I know is that we should enjoy the ride because we are witnessing history.