In 2019, the legendary Brazilian and former Santos all-time great, Pele, somehow saw it fit to cast aspersions on six-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, by bizarrely criticizing the Portuguese striker, saying he is a one-trick pony “who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well”.
In a brazen and crude attack – totally unexpected from a highly-respected doyen and elder statesman of world football – on the 34-year-old whom many have ascribed GOAT status to, the sour-pussed former Brazilian great was adamant that both he and Diego Maradona were infinitely better players than Messi- and that the the latter couldn’t in any way hold a candle to them.
“How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well?” the former Santos forward told Folha de Sao Paulo, via The Mirror.
“How can you compare? To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers.”
But in the early hours of Friday morning, Messi broke Pele’s South American goal-scoring record in the World Cup qualifier against Bolivia by hitting a 55th career hat-trick, kicking off the trio of goals with a glorious solo goal to open the scoring in the 14th minute.
And his second goal, which saw him reach 78 goals for his country and surpass Pele’s tally of 77, was ironically, and with fitting poetic justice, scored with his weaker right foot as if to say “Up yours, Pele!” – although, of course, Messi has a lot more class than that.
Naturally, it garnered a whole lot of reaction on social media – with many harking back to those earlier Pele underhand, cheap comments that only served to expose his own insecurity and ugly self-aggrandizing ego.
It would also be fitting at this juncture to recall that, ironically, when Messi equalled Pele’s record for most goals for a single club, he did it courtesy of a header against Valencia. How’s that for not using his head, Pele?
At the time, Pele did then congratulate Messi and told the Argentine “I admire you very much”, which causes one to ponder if the former Brazilian legend was at all sincere in proferring his compliments then, or just exposing his two-faced duplicity.
For his latest achievement, Messi broke Pele’s record in front of 20,000 Argentina fans in Buenos Aires and he and the teammates were finally able to celebrate the summer’s Copa America triumph after their earlier victory over Brazil. Having waited so long for a trophy with the national team, Messi was naturally full of emotion.
“I was very nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the night. I waited a long time for this,” Messi said post-match.
“We won the game that was the most important thing and now we can celebrate.
“It was a unique moment because of where and how we obtained the title.
“There was no better way to do it and been able to celebrate the title now, it’s incredible. My mother, my brothers are here in the stands. They have suffered a lot … I’m very happy.”
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner opened the scoring 14 minutes into the game at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti Stadium in Buenos Aires. It was the first of three goals for La Albiceleste’s captain and talisman and easily the best of the bunch for the evening. Messi received the ball in between the lines and immediately slid the ball through an opponent’s legs before taking one touch to set himself and then nonchalantly curling one into the top corner.
It was an archetypal Messi goal, the deft skill followed by the outrageous pinpoint finish from outside of the box. The goal saw Messi draw level with Pele on 77 international goals but he moved pass the Brazilian icon’s goals tally to become the all-time leading South American goalscorer. Which just goes to show that while the former Brazilian great is all riled up and griping about the new Paris Saint-Germain player’s continued success on the pitch, the diminutive Argentinean, shy of words as always, lets his actions do the talking.
He added a further two in the second half to take his tally to 79.
Messi’s PSG teammate Neymar is third on the list with 68 goals, his latest strike coming in a 2-0 win over Peru.
In another incredible record, Messi has also become the first player to score a hat-trick in 14 different calendar years.
After the Messi masterclass, Lionel Scaloni’s side celebrated the recent Copa America triumph with the 20,000 fans that were in attendance in the Argentine capital.
Shortly after the game, Messi and teammates Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes hopped on a plane and headed back to Paris where Mauricio Pochettino’s side host Clermont Foot at the Parc Des Princes on Saturday and it would be quite the turnaround for Messi to start the fixture given the time difference.
Feel sad for this guy Messi broke Pelé’s record for most goals for one club with a header and now Pelé’s record for most goals for a South American nation with his right foot. Always proves his haters wrong🥱 pic.twitter.com/IfxkD7nDNt
— Joe🌪 (@blaugrananws) September 10, 2021