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Who is the GOAT of football in the 21st century?

Lionel Messi of Argentina is undoubtedly the GOAT of football in the 21st century. The acronym GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time and Messi is unquestionably the greatest of all time when it comes to football in the modern era. His latest conquest of the FIFA World Cup further cemented that claim as the Argentine captain became the only player to score in the group stages, the round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final as Argentina beat France to lift FIFA World Cup 2022.

Football and by extension, sports fans, in the modern era are well familiar with the term ‘GOAT.’ It can be found in almost all corners of popular culture these days and is used to signify someone or something being the greatest or the best of all time.

Although the words ‘all time’ appear in the acronym GOAT, meaning a sense of perpetuity and finality, its usage is obviously casual and not absolute. When it comes to the GOAT of football, many fans, journalists, and professional players and managers have different opinions, but everyone broadly agrees on one man being the GOAT of the modern era.

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Who is the GOAT of football in the 21st century?

The GOAT of football in the modern era

Awards No. of times won by Lionel Messi
Ballon d’Or 7
The Best FIFA Men’s Player 1
European Golden Shoe 6
World Cup Golden Ball 2
UEFA Player of the Year 3
FIFPro World XI 14
Player of the Year (league) 6
Competition No. of times won by Lionel Messi
FIFA World Cup 1
Copa America 1
Finalissima 1
UEFA Champions Leagues 4
League titles 11
Olympics 1
Club World Cup 3
National Cups 7

Lionel Messi is widely acknowledged as the GOAT of football in the modern era and is also considered by many to be the greatest player of all time or the GOAT in history. The diminutive Argentine is put in the same seat as Diego Maradona and Pele, two footballers who have long held the status of being the best players of all time.

Given the enormity of everything that he has done and achieved, it is unsurprising that Messi also belongs in the same conversation. A record seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, the prize awarded to the best player of the year and the perfect definition of the ultimate goalscorer and modern playmaker, Messi has been head and shoulders clear of anyone for the best part of well over a decade now.

Records and history books in football have broken and tumbled in the wake of Messi’s genius and at the age of 35, he still continues to wow and mesmerize the world, proving that he is the greatest of the modern era.

Records and achievements of the GOAT of football Lionel Messi

Messi stats Overall Career Club Career League UEFA Champions League International career
Appearances 1003 831 559 161 172
Goals 793 695 487 129 98
Assists 350 297 216 40 53

Lionel Messi has seen and won everything there is in club football and has had a legendary career with FC Barcelona in Spain. He is not only the highest goal-scorer in Barcelona’s history but is also the record goalscorer in La Liga and has the most number of assists in that league. Messi has also set numerous match records in Spain and has won La Liga on 10 different occasions!

Messi has won the Ballon d’Or seven times and has won the European Golden Shoe six times for being the highest goal-scorer in Europe. He is also the second-highest goal-scorer in the history of the Champions League behind Cristiano Ronaldo and has won Europe’s most prestigious club competition on four occasions, all of them with Barcelona.

Messi had to leave Barcelona in 2021 due to financial reasons and he joined Paris Saint-Germain in France where he won Ligue 1 in his very first season. Messi also won his first senior national trophy with Argentina for the first time in his international career in 2021 after leading La Albiceleste to the trophy in Brazil.

He had earlier won an Olympic medal in Beijing 2008 and later added his second trophy with Argentina following the Finalissima win against European champions Italy in 2022.

Messi has also finished runners-up in the final of the FIFA World Cup and was awarded the golden ball at the World Cup in 2014. He also lost back-to-back Copa America finals with Argentina in 2015 and 2016 but despite those setbacks, the Argentine is the player with the second most number of trophies in world football after his former teammate Dani Alves.

Also Read: Who is the king of football?

However, beyond statistics, numbers, and trophies, what truly sets Messi apart is a simple fact that he is a genius on the football pitch. Despite being recognised as one of the greatest goal-scorers in history, he is also regarded by many to be the best playmaker in the world in the modern era. As a result, Messi can be said to be a complete player who not only scores a bundle of goals but also sets up his teammates and influences his team’s overall play. Therefore, it can be added that Messi is the greatest footballer of all time and the GOAT of the 21st century.

Other contenders for the GOAT of football

Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the most impactful goal-scorers in world football, Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly the best footballer of his generation along with Messi. An illustrious winner on the pitch, he has won five UEFA Champions Leagues with Real Madrid and has been quite decisive in his career. Cristiano is currently the leading goal-scorer in Champions League history and also in international football after overtaking Iran’s Ali Daei last year.

Also Read: Ronaldo net worth

Ronaldo also led Portugal to their first international trophy in 2016, winning the European Championships and even won the UEFA Nations League.

Having scored goals in every FIFA World Cup he has played in since 2006, Ronaldo has also won the Ballon d’Or on five occasions – the second-most in history after Messi. Ronaldo made history with Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus, and despite being in the twilight of his career, continues to be a huge global brand and one of the most popular people in the world.

Zinedine Zidane

One of the greatest midfielders of all time, Zinedine Zidane reached the pinnacle of his career when he scored two goals in the final against Brazil to win the FIFA World Cup for France on home soil in 1998. Capable of scoring goals and assisting teammates, while dribbling and maintaining control of the ball in tight areas and making his team tick, Zidane is one of the complete masters of the game in the modern era.

He also had illustrious careers with two European heavyweights in Real Madrid and Juventus. After retiring from the sport as a player, Zidane has had an extremely successful career as a manager and he led Real Madrid to three Champions League titles in a row and made history.


Ronaldinho is the biggest entertainer that modern football. Playing with a smile across his face, he was football’s answer to Harry Houdini’s magic tricks. On the pitch, Ronaldinho was capable of the impossible. From nutmegging multiple defenders to scoring thundering freekick to pulling off elasticos and rabonas, the Brazilian charmed and mesmerised the world every time he was on the field.

Ronaldinho was also instrumental in putting Barcelona back on the map and led them to their first UEFA Champions League win in the 21st century in 2006. He also won the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Brazil and was crowned FIFA World Player of the Year in 2006.


Xavi is one of the finest midfielders that world football has seen and he is regarded as one of the greatest Europeans to play football. Every manager’s favourite player, Xavi was a fundamental part of the historic Barcelona side under Pep Guardiola and the Spain team under Vicente del Bosque that basically conquered the world.

Xavi won four Champions League titles and several La Ligas with Barcelona while also leading Spain to the European Championship on two occasions and the FIFA World Cup in 2010. He formed an incredible connection on the pitch with Andres Iniesta and now Xavi is serving as the manager of Barcelona in the next chapter of his career.

Andres Iniesta

If Xavi was the brains of the golden Barcelona and Spain sides, then Andres Iniesta was the heartbeat and the flair. He will forever be associated with Spain’s biggest triumph in world football when he scored the only goal in the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa against the Netherlands.

Iniesta has won every competition and trophy there exists and it’s quite unfortunate that he played football in the same generation as Messi and Ronaldo and was unfortunate to never win a Ballon d’Or. However, the legacy that he has left with Barcelona and Spain can hardly be imitated.


Who is the best player of the year in 2022?

France and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema was elected as the best player of the year in 2022.

Who is the greatest goal-scorer in football?

Cristiano Ronaldo is regarded by many as the greatest goal-scorer in football.

Who is the GOAT footballer of all time?

Lionel Messi is the greatest of all time along with Diego Maradona and Pele.


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