A quiet little 13-year-old with a growth deficiency was introduced to the wonderkids as they gathered around Barcelona’s La Masia, the best football academy in the world. According to La Masia graduate Marc Valiente, this was their new clubmate from a faraway land who was “very, very special.” Cesc Fàbregas, another wonderkid, recalls facing that quiet little kid in his first training session and feeling confident that he would take the ball from him when they came face to face. The quiet youngster then ran at Fàbregas with the ball, and Fàbregas, who would go on to become one of the best midfielders of his generation, realized right away that this kid “was not normal.”
Four years later, Ronaldinho told basketball legend Kobe Bryant that he would now be introducing him to the player who would go on to become the greatest player ever. Shortly thereafter, prior to a giants Barcelona and Juventus friendly match, two legends were conversing. Patrick Vieira was told by one of them, Samuel Eto’o, about this kid and that one day it would appear as though every player before him was playing a different sport.
Everyone who watched him at first could clearly see that he was a talent that would last a lifetime. And Lionel Messi, who was so introverted when he was young that Fàbregas said they initially thought he was mute, was told he had a destiny to fulfill. Lionel Messi — keep the name in mind. The great coming upon us was predicted by a prophecy.
After that, Messi would rise to prominence as a member of Barcelona’s greatest club team, which went on to win everything they could with club football. Six Ballon d’Ors, four Champions League trophies, ten league titles, seven Spanish cups, and Messi rose to the position of greatest club player during his time at Barcelona. However, for the Argentine, there was always work to be done on that renowned Albiceleste shirt. When Messi was in Spain, he had to deal with the weight of his own greatness, but when he was back in Argentina, he had even more to deal with: he had to fill certain roles. And man, those shoes were big. The comparisons had to happen. The same small frame, about five and a half feet of splendid, wild mischief. governed by the same supremely manipulative brain. the same nation. Similar club. The world’s finest left foot since, well, him.
Messi was born in 1987, the same year that Diego Armando Maradona won the World Cup. He was raised on a steady diet of myths and legends about the mythical figure. The demands arrived quickly after the comparisons had begun a long time ago. Go ahead and win the World Cup for us by yourself like he did. After all, is requesting the Herculean from Hercules really too much?
However, Messi did not find earthly football as easy with the Argentine national team as he did with Barcelona. The telepathic connections that Messi formed with players like Xavi and Andrés Iniesta were never quite replicated, and there was always what appeared to be an insurmountable communication gap between Messi and the others who wore the Sky Blue and White. This gap was great, always slightly out of sync, and the wavelengths never truly matched.
When Argentina were eliminated from the World Cup by Germany on penalties in the quarterfinals in 2006, Messi experienced his first heartbreak as a teenager. At the age of 23, Messi was already one of the greatest footballers the world had ever seen four years later. He was in the peak of his career. The stage was set, with Maradona as coach and the best team Argentina had in a long time. The script was written, but those Germans, oh Germans, rarely read it. A 4-0 defeat was the result of questionable selections and strategies. What was supposed to be a fairy tale ended in humiliation and served as a foreshadowing of the subsequent ten years.
After four years, the hurt would get worse. Mario Götze was brought in from the bench by Germany manager Joachim Löw after the 2014 final was tied at 0-0. Löw instructed Götze to demonstrate to the world that he was superior to Messi before transferring him. Götze would win the final with a left-footed volley and establish his place in folklore. Two consecutive defeats in the Copa America final would cause Messi even more pain.
The Argentinians turned against him, yelling in rage that he was more concerned about Barcelona than Argentina. When he missed the crucial final spot kick in the second final, the vitriol reached its peak. Messi would leave because the pain was too much. Four finals, zero victories, an unfulfilled destiny, and a nation’s hope lost in the rubble. When Messi announced his retirement, he would explain, “It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”
As a result, the greatest football player in history was subject to a restriction. Criticism of his performance with the national team grew louder as he became more successful with Barcelona. The argument went, in order to be the greatest ever, one must perform at the highest level. In time to lead Argentina to the World Cup in 2018, Messi would reclaim his retirement. They would meet a France inspired by Kylian Mbappé there, with pace and power so unstoppable that no team could compete with them. Another setback, yet another heartbreak.
However, it appeared that the Sky Blue and White was cursed as well as Messi. Nicolás Tagliafico, an Argentine left back, said that no one wanted to be manager before rookie Lionel Scaloni took over. Scaloni entered bearing a mantra: Tomorrow will see the sun rise. a straightforward but powerful message that helped relieve Messi of the burden. Because of the uncertainty surrounding Messi’s international career and to lessen Argentina’s Messidependencia, he insisted that Argentina learn to play without Messi when he took over.
However, if you need to rely on a player, Messi is not a bad choice. Messi, a strong believer in destiny, told his teammates before the final against the hosts that “coincidences don’t exist” when the Copa America was controversially moved from Argentina to bitter rivals Brazil due to Covid issues. Argentina won their first major title in decades thanks to Messi’s legendary Copa America performance. The Argentine finished the tournament with the most dribbles that were successful and the most goals, assists, chances, and chances created. Messidependencia is not a serious condition.
The big one, which they said Messi had to win, arrived next. Argentina had won all 36 of its matches prior to the World Cup. They would equal Italy’s record for the longest unbeaten international streak if they defeated Saudi Arabia in the opening game. Football is an absurdly old sport. Saudi Arabia 2, Argentina 1. Suddenly, every game had to be won. If you failed, it would all be lost forever. The World Cup aspirations of Messi would forever be dashed when the sun rose again tomorrow.
Messi sent the following message to his supporters following the Saudi Arabia defeat: Keep believing; we won’t let you down. Argentina advanced to the knockout stage despite facing a surprise elimination from the group because Mexico and Poland were handled with relative ease. Messi’s poor World Cup performances had been the primary, if not the only, criticism. In five editions, he only had one assist and no goals in knockout games. This was wrong according to Messi’s standards. This was about to be corrected, as Messi did. Messi accomplished something he had not accomplished in the previous four World Cups in just 35 minutes against Australia with a typical finish that went into the bottom corner. Things would be different this time.
The strategy for Argentina was clear: score two goals early on, then relax. They held on to win 2-1 against Australia, so it almost worked. When two late Dutch goals forced the game to a penalty shootout, it almost backfired against them. It worked wonders against Croatia, the winner of the previous edition who were kept at a distance.
In addition, it appeared to be working flawlessly in the final for 79 minutes before Mbappé occurred. The most famous volley of a football since another Frenchman by the name of Zinedine Zidane swung his left foot against Leverkusen in 2001 put France back in the game with two goals in two minutes. What had appeared to be a straightforward victory for Argentina was transformed into the greatest football match ever played thanks to a devastating one-two from an extraordinary player.
It seemed appropriate that possibly the most aesthetically pleasing attacker in the history of the game would cap his crowning glory with the ugliest goal he has ever scored because the extra-time period was a wonderfully open affair (see: Football is an old, funny game. Even so, Mbappé would not be denied—fast-twitch muscle upon muscle, steel springs where others only have flesh and bone. He would be the tournament’s top scorer, if nothing else, thanks to his second-half hat trick, the first since 1966 in a World Cup final.
Mbappé had stated prior to the World Cup that European football was superior to South American football. They had a point to make, and that stuck in South America. The score now reads 8-3 in favor of the South Americans after 11 final meetings between Europe and South America.
This may be Messi’s best supporting cast, despite their Messidependencia. No matter how good a player is, he or she will never win a football match on his own. And Messi’s teammates began to step up to the plate one by one.
A 15-year-old San Martin boy tweeted to Messi when he was sad and depressed after he retired in 2016 and told him that the Argentinian fans had let him down rather than the other way around. He encouraged Messi to consider staying even though they did not deserve him. Play for fun because you have no idea how much fun you’re making for us when you’re having fun. Please accept our apologies,” the young boy tweeted. That little boy had no idea that six years later, he would get to enjoy watching Messi have fun with him and that Enzo Fernández would win the award for the tournament’s young player of the year.
Prior to the tournament, Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martnez stated that he wants to die for Messi. Martnez missed the birth of his child a year earlier during their Copa America campaign. While he did not have to die for his captain, he did have to develop for him. Martnez grew until the French striker saw nothing but darkness and Martnez as Randal Kolo Muani closed in on his goal with seconds left. The goalkeeper made the most significant save in football history while sprawling himself to the point where he appeared to be larger than Qatar itself. After that, there would only ever be one penalty winner.