Opinion: Is Lionel Messi the Best Soccer Player Ever?

The only national team honors Messi has garnered so far are the 2005 U-17 World Cup title and the 2008 Olympics, both golds. I am not implying that those were easy competitions, but a player of his caliber and skill set is expected to hoist trophies for his country more often. Here's why I think Messi's greatness is still to come. He doesn't have as good a supporting midfield within the Argentina contingent as he does with Barcelona. Any good striker would be lucky to be fed the ball by Xavi and Iniesta, two of the best midfield players in the world, and often referred to as brilliant playmakers who know where the ball is supposed to be two or three passes ahead of time.

Another reason is that Argentina doesn't know where to play Messi. With such a star-studded cast of strikers – including Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi – it's hard to figure out where exactly Messi fits. He's too small to be a lone target forward, but too good a finisher to venture further into the midfield – something coach Maradona tried in the last World Cup with not-so-spectacular results.

What Barcelona does so well – besides surrounding the forward with world- class homegrown players – is they play him as an underlying striker with the freedom to roam, ahead of Xavi and Iniesta in the center midfield, but beneath Alexis Sanchez or David Villa up top. This eases the pressure off Messi and allows him to drift into the top of the midfield to receive passes, but never in his own third of the field. That's not the case with Argentina, which has a surplus of first-rate forwards who can't play as attacking midfielders just to complement Messi's talents. In some cases, it's been the opposite; Messi has been the one to venture further into the midfield to accommodate the likes of Agüero, Tevez, and Higuain.

Still not convinced that Messi is lost in the Argentine team? Here's the proof: Messi scored zero goals in both the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Copa America (unless you count the penalty he converted in the quarterfinals). He has one 2006 World Cup goal, but barely anyone remembers it, along with two 2007 Copa America goals.

Could 2013 be Messi's breakout year? Along with the 79 goals he scored for Barcelona in 2012, he scored 12 goals for his country, including this stunner. But will he be able to continue his scoring streak on the big stage?

Individually, he's hands down the best player in the world right now, maybe ever. All around, he's still got some work to do.

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