Following Sunday’s World Cup final loss to Germany, albeit in extra time, Lionel Messi’s legacy took a sharp hit. If he never wins the game’s most prestigious trophy, Messi will never be considered the greatest soccer player ever, and that’s okay because he is already an iconic figure in the sport with a lot more to contribute.
It’s unfortunate that the Argentine captain ridiculed teammates for their efforts in the final like he wasn’t a part of the game and couldn’t have affected it to his team’s favor.
“We haven’t been in the semifinals for many years and the fact that we played the final and the way we played it, it’s something to be proud of. But we deserved more and that’s why we are sad. The strikers missed the chances we had. It’s a bad feeling for all of us because we couldn’t win the cup and take it to our people. It’s painful to lose it by so little. We were very close of a big change for this national team but we couldn’t finish it,” said the 27-year-old after the match.
Sure, Gonzalo Higuaín was offside throughout the match and Rodrigo Palacio couldn’t flick the ball over Manuel Neuer’s head but the four-time Ballon d’Or winner wasted a chance in the 47th minute as well. Midfielder Lucas Biglia placed a great through ball for the six-time La Liga champion. Messi saw the far post was open so he shot with his preferred left foot and it went off target to result in a goal kick.
Following the match during award presentations, the three-time Champions League winner won the Golden Ball which signifies that he was the best player of the tournament. In a previous article, I stated that Messi would get the award because of getting the Albicelestes to the final so it wasn’t a surprise when he got the accolade. The man he’s battling to be considered the greatest of all time was not pleased with the three-time European Golden Shoe recipient receiving the prize.
“Messi? I would give him heaven if possible but it’s not right when someone wins something that he shouldn’t have won just because of some marketing plan,” said Diego Maradona on his TV show.
Maradona mentions a marketing plan because Adidas is the sponsor of the Golden Ball and Messi is endorsed by the German company.
To me, Maradona will remain the greatest player ever until someone can catapult a club and country like how he did in his illustrious career. Pele was also a surreal athlete but he played with other iconic players for the Brazilian national team like Garrincha, Didi, Djalma Santos, Nilton Santos and Vava. The national team had so many world class players that they won the 1962 World Cup without O Rei, who got injured the first match of the tournament and was knocked out the tournament. Messi and Pele played for sides that are considered to be the greatest teams of all time because of how much talent they were surrounded by and what they accomplished but Maradona was a man who didn’t play with teams that had an immense amount of talent but he could raise his game to unseen heights.
The 53-year-old played for six clubs in his career but his biggest impact was felt at Napoli where he’s still treated like the messiah in Naples. Before the 1986 World Cup champion played for the club they never won Serie A and with him they had their most successful era by winning the league twice and the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and the UEFA Cup, Europa League, once in a five-year span. Unlike his compatriot whose impact dwindled as his team progressed in the 2014 World Cup, Maradona’s influence grew in 1986 as he had braces in consecutive games in the quarterfinals and semifinals. It was a miracle that Argentina even made the final in 1990 and Maradona didn’t score during the whole tournament but he became more of a playmaker to facilitate his team’s attack and influence his team in another way.
Messi is already on the Mount Rushmore of soccer players along with Johan Cruyff, Maradona and Pele but to be the greatest means transcending the game. Pele was the first black international sports star and served as a missionary for the game playing around the world to spread the message of soccer. Maradona was the short and pudgy troublemaker that transformed into a genius when his feet was on the ball and provided joy to places where they didn’t have a history of winning while carrying decent talent to championship heights. Cruyff is the walking definition of total football that changed the world and gave Barcelona the philosophy they use today.
Lionel Messi should look to LeBron James on how he should view other people’s expectations of him. James changed his legacy by going back home to Cleveland and admitting in his letter that it was going to take a while for him to win a championship again. In a way he’s taking himself out of contention to pass Michael Jordan in being considered the greatest of all time, or G.O.A.T. James went to Miami to follow people’s ideals of needing a championship to be validated in his career and now that he has two, he wants to be a leader in his hometown and region. Argentina doesn’t love Messi because they feel he is more of a Catalan because he’s been at Barcelona since he was 12 and hasn’t performed as well for his national team but in the World Cup he was spectacular and making it to the final was a major accomplishment.
If Messi never wins the big game he’ll still be one of the three greatest players of all time and helped revolutionize the game as a false nine, with tiki-taka and shattering record books every year. Barring injury, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist will be 31-years-old when 2018 comes around and Argentina will have another chance to win their third World Cup. It’ll be unfortunate if Messi never wins the tournament but his career shouldn’t be considered incomplete if he never wins the World Cup.