By Orville Higgins
I was convinced before, but the stellar Barcelona performance against AC Milan earlier this week has reinforced the idea in my mind. If there is a better side in the history of football, I have yet to see them play. No other side that I have watched has the ability to make good sides look so completely out of their depth.
It is widely claimed that the 1970 Brazil team was the best ever football aggregation. I watched that team play every game of that 1970 World Cup, and they are not close to Barcelona of 2013.
There was one game in that 1970 tournament when Brazil beat England 1-0. Brazil were the better team, but England competed. When Barcelona are at their best, other teams seem to be merely holding on, no matter who they are.
We romanticise that Brazil team because of our fascination with Pele and Brazilian football on a whole, but they couldn't match this Barcelona unit.
The slick passing and off-the-ball movements of the current Barcelona team are unmatched in recorded history. If one wants to be critical, one could say they don't attack enough down the flanks and they don't hit enough long-range shots. But that's nitpicking. They do what they have to.
In their own conditions, and when they are motivated enough, they are virtually unbeatable. As much as they sometimes play like they are invincible, the players are not machines, but when they put their minds to it, they are awesome. They just don't beat you, it's almost as if they are putting on a football clinic!
There can't be too many other teams in history, football or otherwise, that combine such ruthless, almost mechanical efficiency with such dynamism and flair. Barcelona show that you can be pretty and potent at the same time.
The Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan were of the same stamp, but you get the feeling that the Bulls then were like the Jackson Five, with Michael Jordan being the Michael Jackson. The others were just not quite of the same class. The marauding West Indians of the 1980s were as dominant a team as any that ever played, but they didn't always delight the purists the way Barcelona are doing now.
Central to this Barcelona team is Lionel Messi. He is the X-factor. When he isn't at his best, Barcelona are still a great team, but when Messi is on song, especially when they play at home, they are virtually an unstoppable force.
I have said it before, that not since the heyday of Diego Maradona has an attacking player been this good. The Zidanes and Ronaldos of this world are great players, but Messi is a genius. The others do the simple things well, and sometimes pull off the truly spectacular, but Messi, like Maradona before him, makes the miraculous look commonplace. Zidane and Ronaldo make you cheer; Messi makes you wonder!
Messi gets criticised that he doesn't reproduce the same dazzling, breathtaking abilities, with the same consistency in an Argentina shirt. That statement is true, but we need to examine why.
Football and entertainment
Football is not unlike an entertainer performing with a band on stage. No matter how great the singer, he will not sound as good, not wow the audience as much, if the band backing him isn't on the ball. Michael Jackson still needed other dancers and out-of-this-world stage props to reveal how truly special he was. Bob Marley needed the Wailers, and then the I-Threes, to help his light to shine.
Messi needs a supporting cast not to show us that he is the best in the world - because that he can do in his sleep - but to help win football games, because no matter how good you are, you can't win football games all by yourself.
When Messi plays with Argentina, he doesn't have that kind of back-up that Barcelona provide to show off his genius. Some say Barcelona make Messi look good. Actually, it's Messi that makes Barcelona, at times, well nigh unbeatable.
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host on KLAS FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.