Is Messi the greatest ever? Not based on last night.

Another sublime performance from Lionel Messi, and once again the question is being asked: is he the greatest footballer of all time.

It’s the same question which is raised after each and every game in which he does something extraordinary. In other words, quite often.

However the answer remains the same – that there is simply no way to fairly compare him with the greatest players in previous eras of the game.

If the matter hadn’t been settled already, then five goals in a Champions League second leg against a team who, realistically, began the game with almost zero chance of progressing isn’t going to make all that much difference to the debate.

Besides, there has never been total agreement on whether it is Pele or Diego Maradona that Messi has to surpass in fans’ opinion. The fact that there are differing views on which of those is previously considered to be the best footballer in the sport’s history simply highlights the difficulty in comparing different generations with the aim of singling out one player.

What Messi has managed to do is add his own name to the endless “greatest ever” debates. Now, fans have three footballers to argue about.

One argument that can be put to rest with some certainty is that Messi has no equal in the modern game. He’s delivered time and time again on the biggest stage, and continues to produce moments of footballing magic that others simply aren’t capable of.

Of his five goals in Barcelona’s 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League last night, one was a tap in. The other four were routine moments of genius from a player who – still aged just 24 – is destined to become the all-time leading goalscorer at one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Once he’s achieved such a feat, it’s almost inevitable that the question of “greatest ever” will surface yet again.

And the answer will remain exactly the same.

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