Six Ballons d’Or, a FIFA World Player of the year, one The Best FIFA World Player of the Year award, six Golden Shoes, six Pichichi trophies, eight La Liga Best Player awards, one World Cup Golden Ball, 10 La Liga titles, six Copa Del Rey titles, four UEFA Champions League titles and many more achievements than one could possibly keep track of. This and much more is the legacy of the legend that is Lionel Messi who’s story is not finished yet.
The Argentine phenom has done just about everything, overcoming several opponents and has been central to most of, if not all of Barcelona’s triumphs since he made his debut in 2006.
With so many honours, one would think that his place would already be sealed in football history and that is as much a fact as anything but there are some football watchers who still see Messi as “incomplete”.
Occasionally, football fans ask themselves if Messi would still maintain his legendary level had he left Barcelona for another big club in the continent. This question will most likely not have an answer but the closest clue or hint to answering such a question will probably be the Argentina national team with which Messi is yet to win a major honour till date. Leading bookmakers have Argentina at a massive 10/1 to win the World Cup in Qatar, when Messi will be 34.
For all the excellence that Messi has portrayed throughout his career, the 32-year-old has had his legacy questioned because of this one fact. He has gotten his team to a few Copa America finals and a World Cup final but he is yet to add to his trophies at senior level for his nation.
At Barcelona, there is one system, one philosophy and one pattern. Managers either play the Barcelona way or take the highway which means Messi has been playing in one system all his club career and at some point, some positions he will take up, the movements and passes he will make in that system will be like muscle memory.
A national team is much more different. They don’t really have time to practice tactics and really be a cohesive unit. South American teams have this problem in particular.
Some of the World’s best teams in the past, like for example Spain of 2010 had players mostly playing in the same league with a good number of the key players in the team being teammates at club level. This makes it easier to adopt a certain style which will be synonymous to most of the team.
As per Marca, seven of the 11 players who stared for Spain in the 2010 final were Barcelona players. That would make sense as to why they dominated at the time as well. The same could be said for Germany as well, comprising mainly Bayern and Dortmund players during their 2014 triumph – which still applies till date to a large extent.
Most South American teams do not have locally-based players in their national teams and most of their best foreign players play for different sides in Europe. It is hard to find any cohesion in that team which is why Messi becomes so important for their success.
With all due respect to Argentina’s team, the team’s best players are at the top end of the pitch and not in midfield.
Very few players in football history will be as good as the likes of Xavi and Iniesta who paired up in the Barcelona midfield and along with Messi tore the world apart.
Yet the argument is that Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi’s arch-nemesis was able to win a trophy with Portugal under “similar” circumstances with his national side. Perhaps so.
Messi will no doubt want to settle this and put it to bed but the sad reality is that time is running out for him. By next year’s Copa America in June, Messi will be 33 – meaning by the next continental competition the ever-green play-maker will be 37 already, way beyond his past years and who knows if he might have hung up his boots by then.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is aware of this too but still maintained that the team needs to win for the team and not for Messi.
“I don’t know if it will be the last. Hopefully not,” the Argentina coach told reporters.
“But Argentina need the title, more than just him. Hopefully, don’t promise anything, but we’ll give the maximum to reach the final.”
Argentina are obviously not Barcelona and the world’s best player will be expected to perform on a different level every time be wears the blue and white of his national side. Will next year be the time Messi finally breaks his International hurdle? Only time will tell.