‘Greatest’ Lionel Messi ready for World Cup farewell | Football news

DOHA: thirty-seven club trophies, seven Ballon d’Ors and six European Golden Boots.
A Copa America title, an Olympic gold medal, and a list of statistical scores and records that may never be broken.
Over the course of an 18-year career, Lionel Messi, with one obvious exception, has won it all. And he won again and again.
On Sunday, the 35-year-old Argentina captain has the chance to fill the last remaining gap on his CV: a World Cup winner’s medal.

FIFA Final

For Messi’s most ardent admirers, victory over France at Doha’s Lusail Stadium will settle the debate over where he fits in the most exclusive sanctuary in the football pantheon.
Messi’s career successes to date have already earned him the right to be mentioned alongside Pele, Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano and Johan Cruyff.
A World Cup win on Sunday pushes him ahead of that exalted company? Some think so. Others think that he is already alone.

“I have no doubts: he is the best in history,” was Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni’s verdict after Messi’s virtuosic display in the 3-0 semi-final win against Croatia.
Former England captain Alan Shearer says he has long considered Messi’s compatriot Maradona the greatest player of all time based on his 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico.
“If Messi were to win here, my opinion would change,” Shearer told the BBC.
A more nuanced view came from former Argentina striker Jorge Burruchaga, scorer of the winning goal — scored by Maradona — in the 1986 World Cup final win over West Germany.
For Burruchaga, Messi was the greatest player of an era where only Cristiano Ronaldo can match his achievements. But the 60-year-old says comparisons with previous generations are pointless.

“Win or lose, Messi is neither more nor less than Maradona,” Burruchaga told AFP. “Messi will be in history whatever happens.
“There are five players in the last 70 years who can be considered the best in the world: Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Pelé, Maradona and Messi.
“Messi is on that list, whether or not he wins the World Cup. But I hope he does.”
As the debate over Messi’s place in history continues, the man himself remains focused on what he said will be his last appearance on stage at the World Cup.
Messi’s fifth season in the World Cup was arguably his best, flourishing as the attacking lynchpin of a balanced Argentina starting line-up assembled by Scaloni.
In previous World Cup appearances, Messi has appeared weighed down by history, struggling to sustain the hopes and dreams of millions of Argentines desperate for international glory.
For much of the last decade it looked like he was doomed in his quest to land a major title with Argentina.
A shocking extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup kicked off a run of three consecutive big-game final defeats.
In 2015, a star-studded Argentine team lost the Copa America final to Chile on penalties. A year later, Albiceleste were again beaten by Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario, Messi missed a penalty in another shootout defeat.
Soon after that defeat, a shattered Messi announced his retirement from international football, in what turned out to be a short-lived exile from the national side.
He returned months later and returned to lead Argentina to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But a mostly chaotic tournament ended in the round of 16 with a 4-3 loss to eventual champions France.
However, the tide turned with the appointment of Scaloni at the end of 2018.
After a third-place finish at the 2019 Copa America, Argentina finally ended their wait for a major title with victory at the 2021 tournament, beating arch-rivals Brazil in the final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
According to Burruchaga, the 2021 Copa America title freed up the Argentina captain.
“Now he has no weight on his shoulders and we are seeing another Messi,” said Burruchaga.
With five goals already in Qatar, this is already Messi’s most successful in terms of goals scored.
Playing in bursts, he has mastered the knack of producing devastating moments of magic at key moments – most recently in assisting Argentina’s third goal against Croatia on Wednesday, when he left the talented 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol for dead with a sparkling run .
“I don’t know if it’s my best World Cup or not,” said Messi after Croatia’s victory.
“I’m very happy to have ended my World Cup journey in a final, to have played my last match in a final… To finish like this is fantastic.”


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