Last night’s heroics by Barcelona forward Messi has ensured that the Argentinian is now categorically the 4th most revered Lionel after Lionel Blair, Lionel Ritchie and Rabbi Lionel Blue.
However talk of him being the greatest footballer in the world is surely premature, when he may not even be the greatest left-footed midfielder in the world.
I’m thinking of course about Charlton’s own Johnnie Jackson whose transformation from full-back to goalscoring midfield captain has captured the imagination of football pundits from as far afield as Bromley, Chislehurst and even Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Before one even compares the two mercurial talents on a head-to-head basis, one must also surely factor in the quality of their respective teammates.
Whilst Messi can rely upon the wonderful likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas to create chances and undertake defensive responsibilities, Jackson must rely upon the likes of Danny Hollands and Andy Hughes, who would arguably struggle even to get into the Bayer Leverkusen side.
Since the inherent unfairness of world football ensures that the two are unlikely ever to grace the same pitch, a subjective written comparison will instead have to suffice:
GOALSCORING: It would be easy to imagine Messi’s 147 goals in just over 200 games for Barcelona give him the slight edge in the scoring department, but Jackson’s 25 goals for Charlton in just two years are more than he managed in his first ten seasons as a professional.
Indeed whilst Messi appears to have been born with a natural knack for goalscoring, Jackson has had to learn it the hard way, a feat far more worthy of admiration.
However I don’t believe Jackson has scored five goals in a game since he was eight years old, so in light of last night’s heroics the nod just goes to Messi. VERDICT: Messi
HEADING: At just 5ft 6in, Messi might find himself outjumped even by our own Chris Solly. Indeed his woeful lack of aerial ability would be more apparent if it wasn’t for the fact that Barcelona insist on playing the ball on the floor.
If I was his agent then I would be advising him to work on this part of his game urgently should he have any realistic dreams of greatness. Had he been born in England, he would have been rejected at 16 and would now be working in Primark.
Jackson meanwhile has popped up on more than one occasion with useful headed goals, and has proved to be a genuine threat ghosting in on the far post from right-wing crosses. VERDICT: Jackson
FREE KICKS & PENALTIES: From the penalty spot, Messi has a relatively poor record missing 7 of his 27 efforts since joining Barcelona. By contrast, I at least cannot recall Jackson missing one for the Addicks despite being the nominated taker – he really is coolness personified.
Both players are supremely gifted meanwhile at free-kick situations, but Jackson’s back-to-back winning goals in the vital Sheffield matches were immaculately executed in a pressure situation.
Messi's often occur when he has already single-handedly put Barca 6-0 up. VERDICT: Jackson
PACE: There is little doubt that Messi is marginally quicker with the ball at his feet, but Jackson recognises that the ball on its own can move faster than any player can and adapts his game accordingly.
Indeed one might argue that Messi’s need to use his pace to such an apparently devastatingly degree is a function of beginning his run out of position.
However this is not a test of positional sense so Messi must win this category. VERDICT: Messi
PASSING: Messi might be described as a selfish passer to the extent that he passes at all. He is always looking for a ’give and go’ because a mere ’give’ is not in his nature.
Indeed when fans and pundits fawn over yet another mazy run that ended in a goal, they might instead question whether an easier goal might have been scored had he have passed to a teammate.
Jackson by contrast is the ultimate team man and a captain no less. His beautifully controlled passing and intelligent guarding of possession confer due value upon the football. VERDICT: Jackson
INTELLIGENCE: If one could study football at university then Jackson would doubtless have attended Oxbridge (surely Uxbridge? - Ed.)
His instinctive sense of where the ball is going, and thus where he should be is remarkable.
Messi meanwhile can resemble something of a headless chicken, his mazy and indiscriminate runs ending up in a stunning goal almost by accident.
The end may justify the means but Jackson's more reasoned approach is far more cultured and rational. VERDICT: Jackson
RESULT: Johnnie Jackson 4, Lionel Messi 2
NEXT WEEK: Cristiano Ronaldo vs Danny Green