Being one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and considered “GOAT” by many, is Leo Messi the fastest player in the world of soccer?
There are several factors that differentiate an average player from a world-class athlete, but in some cases, it is the pace that makes all the difference.
To put things into perspective right away – no – Messi is NOT the fastest player ever, but how fast is he compared to his colleagues?
Who are some of the fastest players in the world?
Before we get into how fast Messi is, it’s important to note the speed of some other world-class soccer players. Sure, they might not be as skillful as Messi, but being faster than the Argentinian is still quite impressive.
Two big names that come to mind here would be Arjen Robben and Alphonso Davies.
Even though the latter is currently the fastest active player, the former has technically set the world record. Robben managed to reach the top speed of 23 miles per hour while playing for the Netherlands against Spain in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Alphonso Davies currently plays for Bayern Munich and represents Canada at the international level. He set his record of 22.7 miles per hour while playing for the German giants.
Who are some other pacy players?
The first name that comes to mind right away would be Kylian Mbappé. The Frenchman is currently seen as Messi’s successor, but who is faster out of the two?
Even though Mbappé is yet to reach his prime, the possibility of him being even faster in the following years is not that high.
Compared to Messi’s prime in the last decade, Mbappé is definitely a much quicker player who relies more on counterattacking and making runs behind the opposition.
If we take a look at the numbers, we will see that Mbappé’s top speed was 22.4 miles per hour. He set his personal record back in 2020, and even though it’s quite an impressive result, it’s still lower compared to the aforementioned Alphonso Davies.
Messi’s top speed in his prime was a little bit over 20 miles per hour.
Some other big names here would be Erling Haaland – the current Manchester City star, Theo Walcott – former Arsenal, Everton, Southampton, and England winger, and Jonathan Biabiany – a Serie A star most notable for his pace in early 2010’s FIFA games.
Acceleration, sprint speed, and movement off the ball
There are usually two types of players when it comes to pace – those who accelerate quite fast and reach their top speed right away, and those who manage to reach their top speed during long runs.
Messi has been famous for being quite good at both. As mentioned, in his prime, Leo Messi could sprint at the top speed of around 20 miles per hour – which made him one of the top 15 players in the entire world at the time. Of course, soccer players usually make many shorter sprints instead of running at their top speed throughout the whole match.
Another thing that makes Messi seem much faster is his dribbling ability. There is only a handful of players who are quite pacy both on and off the ball.
When it comes to his movement off the ball, Messi was yet again among the best ones during his prime. Many fans all around the world fell in love with Messi’s playstyle solely because of the way he would move and make sprints when his teammates were in possession.
Are there any disadvantages?
Leo Messi is quite short – 5’7” to be exact. Some would even argue that he is an inch or two shorter than the listed height.
Traditionally, taller players who have longer legs tend to take longer strides and reach higher top speeds.
What Messi excels at is reaching the top speed quite faster compared to the opposition. Since he is not as tall as the average player, Messi has much better control over his balance and is agile enough to be able to outrun the opposition in a short distance.
What about his current shape?
At the moment, Messi is in his mid-thirties. Many players lose their quality well before that, but the Argentinian superstar is still somewhat rapid. He is currently focused more on his passing game rather than sprinting and getting behind the opposition.
With that being said, it is expected that Messi could perform on a roughly similar level well into his late thirties.
Age is quite an important factor when it comes to pace. Even though the soccer market is always hungry for pacy players, those who rely heavily only on that aspect of their development will usually see a huge downfall even by the late 20s or early 30s.
If a player decides to transform the playstyle into a viable one at an “old” age, that player will most likely have a much longer career, just like Messi.
Next time you watch a game, make sure to take a closer look at the players that are a bit older but were renowned for their pace earlier in their careers. You will most likely see some similarities to Messi’s transformation.
Even though Messi might not be the fastest player in the world, his pace, even at this stage of his career, is still quite impressive.
Messi has been known for his passing ability, finishing, dribbling, and agility, and pace has definitely been a huge part of that.
Messi’s rapidness has been quite important throughout his development, and he probably wouldn’t be seen as one of the greatest if it wasn’t for his pace.