Lionel Messi Does Not Need Success With Argentina To Be The Greatest
Lionel Messi is brilliant. Undoubtedly the most versatile and widely gifted player in the world, his list of achievements and records make him truly stand out as a contender for the title of the best player of all time.
10 La Ligas, 6 Copa Del Reys, 8 Supercopa Del Espanas, 4 Champions Leagues and a record-setting 5 Ballon D’Ors is a trophy cabinet that very few footballers will ever come close to boasting, and it’s unlikely we will ever see a great like this again in our lifetime.
For what my opinion is worth, I think Messi is hugely underrated footballer. Because his emergence has been so modern and he’s still active in the game, I think we’re sometimes a little bit too hesitant to compare him against giant legends of the game who deserve their respect such as Pele, Maradona, Cruyff etc.
Nostalgia always makes things seem brighter than what’s in front of us, but I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that what we see from Messi is something a little bit more magical, particularly when you think about the oppositions he’s been playing against and the overall quality improvement of the sport.
The World Stage
One stick that has been used against Messi is the fact that he’s still awaiting his first major international trophy.
Ever since the inception of football, international football has held a special place in creating the legacy of players. Maradona leading his Argentina team to glory in 1986, Johan Cruyff’s infamous turn in 1974, and of course Pele carving himself into the history books with three World Cup wins, despite playing all of his career in the relatively forgotten Brazilian league.
Even Messi’s closest and most fierce rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, broke his international duck when he won Euro 2016 with his Portugal side, making Messi’s relatively empty international trophy cabinet look that much more alarming.
It has been claimed, quite unfairly it should be said, that Messi has ridden off the skills and talents of his teammates at FC Barcelona to get to his success, namely the likes of Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. One look at his record shows that is nonsense, however even these players have multiple international titles to their name.
Reaping The Rewards
We know that when it comes to recognising the best of the best in world football, there’s no higher prize to claim than the Ballon D’Or. Throughout world football, having a successful year with your international team has shown to be a big swinging point in being crowned the best of the best.
Luka Modric’s surprise win in 2018 was sure to have been helped by Croatia’s first appearance in a Fifa World Cup final, Ronaldo scooped the prize after he fired Brazil to the World Cup in 2002, Fabio Cannavaro was the last defender to win the prize when he led his Italy team to the World Cup in 2006, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Cristiano Ronaldo’s Euro winning campaign also coincided with a year he robbed Messi of a Ballon D’Or in 2016.
We know that these awards aren’t a coincidence, and Fifa value international prizes very high in their sights. Messi and Argentina’s torrid time at the 2018 World Cup is sure to have been an influence in the Argentine’s surprise fifth placed finish in this year’s Ballon D’Or lineup, despite the fact his numbers have been as good as ever and still well ahead of the likes of Mohammed Salah who finished ahead of him.
An Unconvincing Side
Bursting onto the scene like a racehorse on a flat in the 2005/06 season, Messi’s first real chance to shine at a World Cup came in Germany in 2006. Following a quarter final exit there and in 2010, Messi’s moment came in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Alas, fate eluded him there as well as Argentina were fairly cruelly beaten by a last gasp Germany winner.
On top of that, Messi’s Argentina side lost consecutive Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016, adding to a nation’s history that hasn’t won a Copa America since 1993.
Messi’s Argentina side is absolutely bursting with talent, more than enough to challenge and win honours at the highest international stage. The likes of Mascherano, Higuain, Di Maria and Sergio Aguero all surround Messi when he steps onto the pitch at international tournament after international tournament, making it even more baffling how they’ve not been able to scoop up a single prize between them.
It’s clear that the Argentine national team has some serious issues with its structure, management and mentality. Throughout Messi’s time with the national team, they have always cut a frustrated and disorganised side and I can honestly say it wasn’t so much of a surprise to see their struggles at the 2018 World Cup.
Looking much more like a team of talented individuals rather than a collective, steely unit, there’s certainly an argument that Argentina are lacking a proper warrior in the middle of the park to galvanise their team together. Some might argue that, as the captain, Messi should be the one to produce this steely harmony amongst the team. These are undoubtedly the same fans that say he should be the talismanic player who produces all the moments of magic every single game.
That, in many ways, seems to be the biggest issue for Messi and Argentina: what do they want him to be for them? At Barcelona, there’s no issue; he grabs all the headlines with his moments of absolute majesty, while players like Gerard Pique galvanise the team under the watchful eye of the steady Ernesto Valverde.
Still The Greatest
Ultimately, Messi’s achievements and feats on the pitch mean he doesn’t need an international trophy to use as leverage to justify himself as the greatest player of all time. What he has achieved at Barcelona is truly special and may never be replicated by a single player ever again.
He has carried his side in more than enough games to show that he possesses the bottle and heart to drag a team over the line, and his performances this season have shown that there is still plenty of potential left in him to show his worth with a few more medals, international or not…