Barcelona's Lionel Messi is Surpassing Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff Says Brazil Legend Zico

Lionel Messi has over 400 goals for Barcelona.
Lionel Messi at Estadio El Molinon, February 17, in Gijon, Spain. Messi's achievements surpass those of Diego Maradona and Pele, according to Zico. Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Brazil legend Zico says Lionel Messi is beginning to surpass the achievements of two of the greatest footballers of all time.

The Barcelona forward, 28, recently became the first footballer to reach 300 goals in La Liga, Spain's top division, and faces Arsenal this week in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg.

Messi's staggering feats at Barcelona and for Argentina have edged him ahead of Diego Maradona and Pele as the greatest footballer of all time, Zico believes.

"He is starting to surpass the level of Pele, Garrincha, [Johan] Cruyff, [Franz] Beckenbauer and [Diego] Maradona," Zico told Barcelona's official television station, Barca TV.

Zico is well-placed to comment. Perhaps in the second tier just underneath the likes of Pele, Maradona and Cruyff, for a number of years in the late 1970s he was commonly regarded as the world's most gifted footballer.

Maradona, Messi's compatriot, had a spell at Barcelona himself but made his fame at underdog Italian side Napoli. Pele, meanwhile, never played outside of his native Brazil until he joined New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL) at the age of 35.

Messi has won four Champions League titles with Barcelona, three Spanish Cups and seven league titles.

But Zico's comments may well draw the ire or at least the attention of Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi's great rival who plays for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or, the award recognizing football's greatest current player, for two years in 2013 and 2014 before Messi snatched the title back in January.