Lionel Messi plays the World Cup for the last time in Qatar 2022. And every match brings it closer to the historic farewell.
The football narrative in Argentina is mostly related to the World Cup. How not? Having won the biggest trophy twice, eight years apart, in 1978 and 1986, the South American nation has always embraced football’s greatest heroes on the big stage. The most iconic photograph of Diego Armando Maradona’s glamorous yet eventful life today is the moment he reaches out for the ball in a World Cup final. Or another one in which the golden yellow trophy rises in his hands… When it comes to the national team, fierce club rivalries such as River Plate-Boca Juniors, Independiente-Racing, Newell’s Old Boys-Rosario Central are also shelved. The “Albiceleste” jersey, where light blue and white meet, becomes a championship candidate for the biggest cup of football more or less every time. Moreover, he takes the audience behind him not only from his own land, but from all over the world. Watching Argentina at the World Cup is a unique experience. Superstars from many countries, especially Maradona, have a big share in this.
Just like Brazil’s numerous Pele heirs, Argentina has sought the heir to Maradona since the mid-nineties. Of course, the way to become as iconic as Pele and Maradona was not just a successful club career. In fact, relatively little of what made them the two greatest players in history had to do with club performances. The reason the two giant figures were out of reach was their glittering past at the World Cup. Therefore, his heirs should have received the lion’s share of applause there. For example, Zico, nicknamed “White Pele”, never became a champion, while Ronaldo carried his country to the cup in 2002 and gave the right to compare. On the Argentine front, the situation was more complicated. Maradona, who was expelled after playing only two matches in the World Cup in 1994 due to the use of banned substances, would not be able to play for the national team again and would leave a huge void behind him. Although players such as Diego Latorre, Ariel Ortega, Juan Roman Riquelme and Pablo Aimar have been called the “New Maradona”, none of them will achieve the status of a legend; every aspiring star who was the subject of the subject would face great pressure. Except for one…
Lionel Messi, who has a different place among the Maradona heirs even at the first moment, with his left-handedness and short stature, did justice to his similarity with the course of his football life. With one of the most successful club careers in history and unbreakable goals and assists records, it is clear that Messi has gone beyond his predecessor in this area. He also silenced the voices of “Can’t win in the national team” by leading the squads that carried Argentina to the 2014 World Cup final and the 2021 Copa America championship. However, it is clear that Messi will be missing a piece if he does not make an unforgettable pose with the golden yellow trophy. Announcing that he will play the World Cup for the last time in 2022, the legend that came to Qatar in the eyes; He has scored four goals and two assists so far and was the impetus to take Argentina to the semi-finals. He has two games ahead of him that will allow him to fully share in Maradona’s legacy. In case of failure, there will still be those who call him “the best in history”, which is perfectly reasonable. After all, the correctness of looking at a team sport from a purely individual perspective is debatable. But if Messi succeeds… That’s when he’ll no doubt feel complete.