From Rosario to the pages of history

152
Syed Mohammad Abdullah

Few words in the English dictionary can encapsulate the magnitude of the footballer that is Lionel Messi. In football, long has the debate about who sits on top of football’s Mount Olympus raged, with many worthy competitors, but after the climax of the 2022 Qatar world cup, Messi has made his claim, his stake at the top, irrefutable.

The 35-year-old forward, seven-times winner of the Ballon d’Or, helped Argentina lift the World Cup trophy. He caused major headlines by being the first player ever to score in all knockout stages for the coveted trophy, and is the first to win the ‘Golden Ball’ twice!

Many greats came and tried their best. The Brazilian Ronaldo never won the Champions League. Ronaldinho and Neymar never won the Golden Boot. Cristiano Ronaldo never won the World Cup. Maradona’s and Pele’s trophy cabinet lacked the European cup. And there’s Messi – with everything. He has completed football and won everything it has to offer.

As if the record-breaking number of golden boots and Ballond’Ors were not enough to cement his legacy. The critics always had one comment to surround his name with – a title with the national team.

He carried the national team on his back year after year, followed by setback after setback, losing final after final. The world cup in 2014, Copa America in 2015, and 2016. He lost again and again. He didn’t let the antics get to him as he continued to work towards his goal. And he did achieve his dream in 2021 of celebrating in the Argentinian jersey. He won the Copa America. He had finally done it. But we all love to hate on our heroes, don’t we? There’s always something to point out on. Then another headline started after his magnificent win over Brazil at the Maracanã. “Messi will never get out of Maradona’s shadow”, as the media continued to criticize him. Maradona, another Argentinian hero, had what Messi didn’t have – a world cup. Thus, another dream was birthed. Another mountain for Messi to climb.

With the 2022 world cup in sight, everyone’s expectations were high for Messi, for it was his last shot at redemption. And he indeed delivered what was one of the best performances at the age of 35. After a thrilling final, Messi won what his heart most desired. In his last ever world cup game, he became the hero for his nation. It’s a fairytale ending. A perfect movie with its ups and downs. He got what he deserved, as he now sits on top of the throne of football. He will be soon recognized as Lionel Messi, the man who beat football.

There are no more arguments to be made. The debate has been settled as Messi’s name becomes synonymous with the ‘Greatest Of All Time’. But Peter Drury puts it best,

“He was the point of difference. He has always been the point of difference. Unparalleled, and maybe today there will be, of course, always those who argue, always those who debate, and the debate can rage on if you like, but as he falls in love with the object in the world that his heart most desired it is hard to escape this supposition that he has rendered himself today. The greatest of all time.”