Despite Copa final, friends, foes agree: Messi is the greatest of all time

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The debate will rage on about Lionel Messi and his place among soccer legends, in Argentina and beyond.

For Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, there is no question, even after Messi missed a penalty kick and failed to lead Argentina to the Copa America title once again.

Twice during a post-match press conference Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Argentine-born coach called Messi “the best player in history.”

“Besides having an admiration for Messi, I really guide myself by the numbers because I know what it is to value certain numbers,” Pizzi said. “Messi’s numbers cannot be equaled, and I think they will continue not to be equaled for life. It’s impossible for a football player to achieve the things Messi achieves.”

Pizzi’s own playing career spanned 15 years, over the same era that Diego Maradona ruled Argentina and the soccer world.

“Maybe from my generation we’re not able to compare him to Maradona because of what Maradona did for Argentine football, but I do think that he’s the best player in history and he played here in the United States today,” Pizzi said. “I think the numbers are irrefutable.”

Sunday’s loss to Chile was the second consecutive Copa America final defeat for Messi’s Argentina, and the fourth time overall the Barcelona legend suffered a heartbreaking loss in the title game.

“There is nothing that we haven’t already said before. It’s the weight of decisive games that have been accumulating over the last two years,” Argentina coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said. “And it’s the same for any soccer player who participates in a final and loses it.

“Losing again is a pain too great for this position to be any different, on the field or in the dressing room.”

In the Argentina dressing room, Messi said he cannot continue playing for his national team, and expressed those feelings to the press afterward.

That news trickled into the Chilean locker room and to Messi’s Barcelona teammate Claudio Bravo, whose save of Lucas Biglia’s fourth-round penalty attempt helped Chile claim their second Copa America title in a row.

“Messi is the best player in history. [In Argentina] they should take care of him, enjoy him and understand him. This is a team effort; when you win, everybody wins and when you lose, everybody does,” Bravo said. “This is just soccer. Soccer is soccer, and this sort of situations make some happy and some sad. I’m surprised, but not sure about his decision or why he made it. I’m just happy to share a locker room with the best player in the world.”