A Copa America identify, an Olympic gold medal and an inventory of scoring and statistical information that can by no means be crushed.
Over the process an 18-year occupation Lionel Messi has, with one evident exception, received the lot. And received it over and over again.
On Sunday, the 35-year-old Argentina captain has the risk to fill the closing final hollow on his CV: a World Cup winners’ medal.
For Messi’s maximum ardent admirers, victory over France at Doha’s Lusail Stadium will settle the talk over the place he ranks in essentially the most unique interior sanctum of soccer’s pantheon.
Messi’s occupation achievements up to now have already earned him the precise to be discussed in the similar breath as Pele, Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano and Johan Cruyff.
Does a World Cup win on Sunday nudge him forward of that exalted corporate? Some assume it does. Others assume he already stands by myself.
“I don’t have any doubt saying that: he is the best in history,” used to be the decision of Argentina trainer Lionel Scaloni after Messi’s virtuoso show within the 3–0 semi-final win over Croatia.
Former England captain Alan Shearer says he has lengthy looked Messi’s compatriot Maradona as the best participant of all time at the foundation of his 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico.
“If Messi were to win it here, my view would change,” Shearer instructed the BBC.
A extra nuanced view got here from former Argentina striker Jorge Burruchaga, scorer of the profitable objective — arrange through Maradona — within the 1986 World Cup last victory over West Germany.
For Burruchaga, Messi has been the best participant of an technology the place handiest Cristiano Ronaldo can rival his achievements. But the 60-year-old says comparisons with earlier generations are futile.
“Win or lose, Messi is no more or less than Maradona,” Burruchaga instructed AFP. “Messi is going to be in history whatever happens.
“There are 5 avid gamers previously 70 years who will also be regarded as the most efficient on the earth — Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Pele, Maradona and Messi.
“Messi is in that list, whether he wins the World Cup or not. But I hope he does.”
While the talk over Messi’s position in historical past rumbles on, the person himself stays inquisitive about what he has mentioned will probably be his last look at the World Cup degree.
Messi’s 5th World Cup marketing campaign has arguably been his highest, thriving because the attacking fulcrum of a balanced Argentina beginning line-up assembled through Scaloni.
In earlier World Cup appearances, Messi has seemed weighed down through historical past, suffering to shoulder the hopes and goals of tens of millions of Argentines determined for global glory.
For a lot of the previous decade it gave the impression as though he used to be destined to fall brief in his quest to land a big identify with Argentina.
The soul-destroying extra-time defeat to Germany within the 2014 World Cup began a run of 3 consecutive primary last losses.
In 2015, a star-studded Argentina aspect misplaced the Copa America last to Chile in a penalty shootout. A yr later, the Albiceleste had been crushed once more through Chile within the last of the Copa America Centenario, Messi lacking a penalty in but any other shootout defeat.
In the instant aftermath of that loss, a shattered Messi introduced his retirement from global soccer, in what became out to be a short-lived exile from the nationwide workforce.
He returned months later and used to be again to guide Argentina on the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But a most commonly shambolic match ended within the closing 16 with a 4–3 defeat to eventual champions France.
The tide became even though with the appointment of Scaloni on the finish of 2018.
After a third-place end on the 2019 Copa America, Argentina in spite of everything ended their stay up for a big identify with victory on the 2021 match, beating arch-rivals Brazil within the last on the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
According to Burruchaga, the 2021 Copa America identify liberated Argentina’s captain.
“The weight is off his shoulders now, and we are seeing another Messi,” Burruchaga mentioned.
With 5 objectives already in Qatar, that is already Messi’s maximum a success in the case of objectives scored.
Playing in bursts, he has mastered the power to supply devastating moments of magic at key occasions — maximum just lately in putting in Argentina’s 1/3 objective towards Croatia on Wednesday, when he left the gifted 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol for lifeless with a scintillating run.
“I don’t know if it’s my best World Cup or not,” Messi mentioned after the Croatia win.
“I am very happy for finishing my journey in World Cups in a final, to play the last game in a final…. To finish this way is brilliant.”