Why the legend of Messi did not need the World Cup?

Let’s clarify one thing: Messi did not need this World Cup to ensure his place in the GOAT table, in any case, some position him with this title at the head of the table.

LUSAIL, Qatar — kylian mbappe had converted the first penalty of France In the penalty shootout, it was the fourth time he had beaten the Argentine goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, in the final, after his hat-trick. Y Lionel Messi advanced to kick the penalty for Argentina.

Conventional wisdom suggests that you generally want your best kickers to kick last, or at least when it’s all up to them to avoid defeat. But there was nothing conventional in this final, or if I think about it, in this World.

Messi he stopped for a moment with his hands on his hips, started with the run, sent the goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to one side and the ball to the other. They were 1-1, and now it was no longer up to him. And perhaps, there was something enormously liberating in this. There was nothing else he could do to help the Argentine National Team to win this World Cup and, for some to finish convincing themselves that he is the GOAT by having the biggest prize of this sport in their hands. Nothing except encourage and be the captain supporting his teammates, which he did, giving each of those who were going to kick a hug and high five.

Argentina was going to become the champion team a few minutes later, when Gonzalo Montiel He converted his penalty to make it 4-2 and thus achieve an irrefutable advantage. But it was that moment before, after Messi he kicked when he really realized that he couldn’t do anything else. It somehow speaks to what, even on a Sunday night in Qatar (a day that we will tell our grandchildren about in the future), had been chasing him in a race in which he has broken all records: not having been able to win the World Cup.

In a team sport, it’s an arbitrary measurement, and in this sport, it’s especially absurd. You may only get four or five chances to try, if you’re lucky; usually you are too young on your first chance and too old on your last. There are no guarantees that you’ll be in good physical condition when it comes time for the competition, and unlike club football, you can’t control your accompanying group because you can’t choose your nationality. alfredo di stefano never won a worldhe. He didn’t either Johan Cruyff… neither Cristiano Ronaldo.

This is not what determines your status within the group of GOAT. or directly as the GOAT. but it definitely removes an undeserved cloud that has hung over him for many years.

The debut of Lionel Messi with Argentina it lasted two minutes, and to some it seemed like an omen. It was the summer of 2005, she was an 18-year-old promise playing in Barcelonacame on after 63 minutes and received a red for an alleged nudge 120 seconds later.

Even while his career was taking off, even while he was adding cups and Ballon d’Ors, even while he was breaking all the Catalan team records for goals scored (which he achieved in 2016) and appearances (in the summer of 2021), and even while many considered him the Number 1 of this sport (and the rest, the fans of Cristiano Ronaldo, they had it as Number 1A) always hovered over that doubt. When was I going to make it with Argentina?

In fact, there were some at home who questioned whether he really wanted such a win for his nation. After all, he had left the country at the age of 13 to go live in Barcelona. Later, in 2016, shortly after the Centenary America Cup, announced that he was withdrawing from the selected team, citing differences with the federation. The reaction was virtually unanimous, and a national campaign for his return emphasized the absurdity of questioning his loyalty. He was back in time for qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

But up to that point, the numbers of the era Messi were not enough for Argentina: in four America Cups and three World Cups, four medals for second place and many moments of regrets and what could have been.

Those who follow Messi closely they say that the key moment was the America Cup 2019. Argentina lost in the semi-final to the hosts, Braziland after the game Messi it was decidedly different. He got angry with the referee and displayed an attitude that few had seen before. A few years before he had become the captain, but this was a different Messi: this was an angry Messi, a threatening Messi, a Messi who would take on anyone. This was the Messi that was going to materialize after the game against Netherlands, the one who said to Wout Weghorst: “What are you looking at, Bobo?”.

At the same time, his relationship with Barcelonawhere it had been for almost two decades, was increasingly tense after the signing of Antoine Griezman. It seemed to many that he was ready to redouble the stake with Argentina. In 2020, he sent the now infamous “burofax” in an attempt to force an exit. He got what he wanted in 2021, joining Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent and the same year ended the curse with Argentina and won with his team the America’s Cup in 2021.

In some ways, everything that followed that summer was a prelude to tonight in Doha. Argentina was directed by Lionel Scaloni, a former player who, above all, moved away from psychodrama and the media circus (characteristic of his previous regimes, such as that of Jorge Sampaoli in 2018 and that of Diego Maradona in 2010) of its players. Under the command of Scaloni, Argentina launched a long undefeated streak and developed a system that broke away from its reliance on Messi. He happened to be a value add and generally a deal breaker, but not the entire game plan. Meanwhile, the fact of playing in psg along with other stars like mbappe Y neymar he was pushed out of the spotlight a bit all the time while the French league offered him a bit of a breather compared to the arduous grind of every week in La Liga.

It is easy, after all, to see how everything was heading in one direction: so that Messi finally he was left with the jackpot. But even that means forgetting what she did for you. Argentineto get here and be able to cross the line.

Messi broke the ice against Mexicosending to the SelectionArgentina towards a crucial victory after having lost the opening match against Saudi Arabia. He scored in every knockout game up to the final, and against the French, he converted a penalty to make the game 1-0, set up the counterattack that made it 2-0, and was there to score what would have been the winning goal in the extension, had it not been for Montiel’s forearm that gave rise to the penalty with which mbappe tied the match.

There is an inescapable symbolic value in the victory against the team of mbappé, the day the Frenchman scored a hat-trick in the final. It was the past that will arrive shortly against the inevitable future for control of the present. And for now, the present still belongs to Messi.

Let’s get one thing straight: Messi he did not need this cup to secure his place at the table of the GOAT It was something he wanted to give to his peers and to his nation, after 22 years of living abroad (and counting). Not because it was something he owed them, but because he loves them. In any case, some, now with their world Cup position to Messi at the head of the table GOAT, and it is good that it is so. Everyone has their own criteria.

For me, it’s not an argument that’s won with numbers, not if you’re comparing apples to anteaters.

whatMessi won four titles Champions League? Brilliant: pelhe did not get to play in the Champions League (or the European Cup, as it was called before) because the Brazilian government passed a series of laws to prevent him from moving to another country. Y Diego Maradona he played in the days when you had to win in your league to get in, not finish inside the top four.

For most of his career, Pele he did not have the benefit of a group around him made up of the best players in the world, regardless of where they came from. Neither Maradonawho played at a time when clubs could only add three foreign players. Messi plays in a highly polarized era, where “super clubs” (such as Barcelona Y psg) have 10, 20 and sometimes 40 times more budget than most of their rivals. It was not the case of the other two.

There is also the risk of confusing achievement with greatness, since you can only achieve what is of your era. win one world Cup It’s an achievement, but that doesn’t automatically make it great.

Just like you can’t easily say that today’s athletes are naturally better because there are better courts, better sports science, better genes, better training techniques or whatever. It may be true that if you were to teleport Sir Bobby Charlton from 1968 to the present, Harry Kane it could be better. But what if it is? That means Bobby Charlton is it a dud? Not in my book.

For some, greatness is so abstract that it transcends the field. Pele Y Maradonaeach in their own way, had a charisma, a presence and a social significance that perhaps Messi dont have. Not because he’s less of a footballer, but because he just has a different personality, and you usually can’t separate the two. Yes Muhammad Ali would have stayed like Cassius Clay, would not have ruled on social issues and would only have limited himself to doing boring and stereotyped interviews, would he still be “The Greatest”? (I grant he put it on himself, but you get my point.)

Lionel Messi has completed a few outstanding boxes on Sunday night by winning the world Cup, but it is a logic that I do not understand. For me? I am content to see greatness get its reward. That is enough for me. And, no, it wasn’t just greatness with the ball at his feet.

Reviewing this tournament, the coach of Argentina, ScaloniHe spoke of trust, of putting your destiny in the hands of your companions, of believing in them. That is what Messi has done in this tournament, and he was seen most emphatically during that long walk to center circle after converting his late penalty.

Messi he trusted his teammates. And they did not disappoint. Just like he didn’t disappoint them either.

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Why the legend of Messi did not need the World Cup?