If you paid any attention to this year’s World Cup, you might have noticed that various commentators and analysts made the identical curious comment that “some people consider Lionel Messi to not only be the greatest player in the world, but the greatest player of all time”. This came as quite a surprise to most casual fans as it was generally assumed that he was not remotely close to being the best Argentinian player ever, let alone the greatest player in the history of world soccer.
In the knockout round of World Cup, Messi didn’t score a single goal. By contrast, in 1986, Diego Maradona, the actual greatest Argentinian player of all time and the only player who can truly be considered as potentially being as great as Pele, scored two goals against England in a knockout game. Both goals are perhaps the two most famous goals in World Cup history; one for perhaps being the greatest goal ever scored and the other for being scored by punching the ball into the net with his hand.
Despite losing to Germany in the final, and despite not scoring a single goal in the knockout round, and despite Argentina not scoring a single goal in the last two games of the World Cup, Lionel Messi was awarded the Golden Ball trophy as the tournament’s best player. This came as a complete shock to anyone who knows anything about soccer, including Messi himself, who looked like he was being given a pile of manure when he received the trophy.
Some people, including Diego Maradona himself, originally suggested that this was all due to the influence of Adidas, which is a major sponsor of both Messi and FIFA. This week, however, it has come to light that both the Golden Ball award and all of the talk of him being the greatest player ever was all part of an experiment to test the soccer IQ of American sports fans. The United States represents the biggest potential growth market for soccer, and so it was decided to test how knowledgeable of soccer the average American soccer fan was becoming. After the World Cup, 10,000 people across the United States were surveyed about who was the greatest soccer player of all time. Zero out of 10,000 answered Lionel Messi, which showed that Americans have clearly become much more knowledgeable about soccer.