LUSAIL, Qatar ( Associated Press) – Talent finally feels whole.
Seven Ballons d’Or, four Champions Leagues and after breaking numerous records, Lionel Messi has lifted the trophy he’s always wanted: the World Cup.
And he wanted it so much, that even before the trophy distribution ceremony to the champions, the Argentine captain kissed and caressed the cup after receiving the award for the best player in the competition, sparking a frenzy among the thousands of Argentine fans who cheered him on. cheered the chant of “Messi, Messi”.
He appeared in his fifth and final World Cup in Qatar, beating France 4–3 in a forced penalty shootout, before drawing 3–3 in the final, which would go down in history.
“He wanted himself, but he came here. Look what this cup is, it’s beautiful,” said Messi, who announced he would continue playing for his country for some time.
“I love football, what I do. I enjoy being in the national team, the group, I want to continue being in a few more sports, being world champion”, he revealed.
On the same great stage when his rival Cristiano Ronaldo waved goodbye as a substitute and his potential successor Kylian Mbappe ended up crying, the Argentine ten has established himself as the best footballer in history, although the discussion will always be open.
“He does not have any pending account, if he has any. It’s a pleasure to train him”, highlighted Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni after the victory. “What he broadcasts to his teammates, he hasn’t seen with anyone.”
At the age of 35, Messi has performed in each of his seven appearances at Doha stadiums, having evoked the best version of legend Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup that the last South American country won.
With his two goals on the final night, one from the penalty spot, Messi scored for the first time in six finals played with his team between the World Cup and the Copa America. Among the many records he broke in Qatar, Tenn also became the first player in the history of the tournament to bounce into the nets in the first round, the final, and the final.
La Pulga added 7 goals and provided 3 assists, and in the same tournament he set two new records: as the player with the most appearances at the World Cup (26) and Argentina’s top scorer in the competition’s history with 13 goals.
With a world title and a Copa América as well as two appearances in the final, Messi himself surpassed Maradona’s football output, which he could not convert in the only major tournament he won with the senior team, Mexico 1986.
In the final, Messi opened the scoring with a penalty after 23 minutes and then took advantage of a rebound from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris after Lautaro Martínez’s shot to put his team ahead again in extra time. In the penalty shootout, the star stopped the hearts of many compatriots: he fired a low shot with his left foot that went in slow motion.
It was a coronation that was long in coming and came at the end of a long journey with the national team that also saw him face some of the biggest disappointments of his career.
He made his debut in 2005 in a friendly match against Hungary, when he received a red card after two minutes for elbowing an opponent.
A year later, the then young talent from Barcelona was called up to play in the World Cup. Frustrated that he did not get playing time, he sat on the substitutes’ bench with his arms crossed after being eliminated on penalties by hosts Germany in the quarter-finals.
Under Diego Maradona, Messi scored no goals and ended South Africa 2010 with his head down.
With the captain’s ribbon, Messi was left on the doorstep of the title at Brazil 2014 and four years later he missed a penalty on his debut.
While in Argentina he was reprimanded for not looking like Barcelona and even not singing the national anthem, Messi lost three Copa America finals (2007, 2015 and 2016). He later resigned from the national team, although he later regretted it.
Ahead of the World Cup, Messi “got his thorn out”, in his words, by lifting the 2021 Copa America, his first trophy with the senior team.
He scored a total of 98 goals in 172 games – the all-time top scorer.
Perhaps Messi’s greatest asset in Argentina was not with the ball, but getting up again and again after each fall.
“It’s crazy that it happened like this. I wanted it so much,” Messi said. “I knew God was going to give it to me, I had a premonition that it was going to happen…” We endured a lot, but we made it through.
Although Messi announced that he will not play in the next World Cup in 2026 “due to age”, his coach has not given up hope of him making it.
“You have to save him a place for the next World Cup, you have to save his 10 (for the shirt) so he can keep playing,” Scaloni said.