Legendary Argentina coach Carlos Bilardo has insisted that compatriot Lionel Messi is not one of the best players in history.
The Barcelona magician has been duly acclaimed as the greatest after picking up a fifth Ballon d’Or trophy in January following an incredible year with Barcelona FC in which he lifted a treble before helping Argentina to the final of the Copa America.
Bilardo stated in January that he did not consider the 28-year-old to be the best player ever to grace the game and the 76-year-old, now general manager of the national team, has gone on to clarify his standpoint.
“[Alfredo] Di Stefano was a superman. He could begin a play in his goal and finish it in the other. Then came Pele and [Diego] Maradona,” he told Ole .
“Now it’s Messi, but they are different eras.
“I knew Messi would win [the Ballon d’Or], he deserved it. There’s quite a difference between him and Cristiano Ronaldo. I put him among the best, but not in history, just of this moment.
“He’s reached his ceiling, he can’t win more than he has, but he has the incentive to win the World Cup.”
The World Cup wining coach then went on to claim he had a hand in Messi’s transition to a false nine position earlier in his career.
“I said to his father ‘get him away from there and put him in the middle, where all the best play’. We did that for the national team and then Barcelona did the same,” he said.
Messi is however criticized back home in Argentina for not replicating his club form for the Albieceleste, but Bilardo insists supporters must give him the kind of respect he receives from football fans in Spain.
“He’s one of the best in the world. He has recognition from the world, from his club, and he should have it here. I’m not surprised by how he plays, I predicted how important he would be many years ago.
“We have to stop criticising him. He’ll get tired of it one day and not come here anymore.”