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“Biggest” Messi prepared for becoming World Cup farewell





DOHA (AFP) – Thirty-seven membership trophies, seven Ballon D’Or awards and 6 European Golden Boots.

A Copa America title, an Olympic gold medal and a listing of scoring and statistical information which will by no means be crushed.

Over the course of an 18-year profession Lionel Messi has, with one apparent exception, received the lot. And received it time and again.

On Sunday, the 35-year-old Argentina captain has the possibility to fill the final remaining gap on his CV: a World Cup winners’ medal.

For Messi’s most ardent admirers, victory over France at Doha’s Lusail Stadium will settle the controversy over the place he ranks in essentially the most unique interior sanctum of soccer’s pantheon.

Messi’s profession achievements thus far have already earned him the appropriate to be talked about in the identical breath as Pele, Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano and Johan Cruyff.

Does a World Cup win on Sunday nudge him forward of that exalted firm? Some assume it does. Others assume he already stands alone.

“I don’t have any doubt saying that: he’s one of the best in historical past,” was the decision of Argentina coach 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 regarded Messi’s compatriot Maradona as the best participant of all time on the premise of his 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico.

“If Messi have been to win it right here, my view would change,” Shearer mentioned.

A extra nuanced view got here from former Argentina striker Jorge Burruchaga, scorer of the profitable purpose — arrange by Maradona — within the 1986 World Cup closing victory over West Germany.

For Burruchaga, Messi has been the best participant of an period the place solely Cristiano Ronaldo can rival his achievements. However the 60-year-old says comparisons with earlier generations are futile.

“Win or lose, Messi shouldn’t be kind of than Maradona,” Burruchaga mentioned. “Messi goes to be in historical past no matter occurs.

“There are 5 gamers up to now 70 years who could be thought of one of the best on the earth — Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Pele, Maradona and Messi.

“Messi is in that listing, whether or not he wins the World Cup or not. However I hope he does.”

Weight of historical past

Whereas the controversy over Messi’s place in historical past rumbles on, the person himself stays centered on what he has mentioned might be his closing look on the World Cup stage.

Messi’s fifth World Cup marketing campaign has arguably been his greatest, thriving because the attacking fulcrum of a balanced Argentina beginning line-up assembled by Scaloni.

In earlier World Cup appearances, Messi has appeared weighed down by historical past, struggling to shoulder the hopes and goals of hundreds of thousands of Argentines determined for worldwide glory.

For a lot of the previous decade it appeared as if he was destined to fall brief in his quest to land a significant title with Argentina.

The soul-destroying extra-time defeat to Germany within the 2014 World Cup began a run of three consecutive main closing losses.

In 2015, a star-studded Argentina aspect misplaced the Copa America closing to Chile in a penalty shootout. A yr later, the Albiceleste have been crushed once more by Chile within the closing of the Copa America Centenario, Messi lacking a penalty in one more shootout defeat.

Within the speedy aftermath of that loss, a shattered Messi introduced his retirement from worldwide soccer, in what turned out to be a short-lived exile from the nationwide staff.

He returned months later and was again to guide Argentina on the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However a largely shambolic event ended within the final 16 with a 4-3 defeat to eventual champions France.

The tide turned although with the appointment of Scaloni on the finish of 2018.

After a third-place end on the 2019 Copa America, Argentina lastly ended their anticipate a significant title with victory on the 2021 event, beating arch-rivals Brazil within the closing on the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

In response to Burruchaga, the 2021 Copa America title liberated Argentina’s captain.

“The burden is off his shoulders now, and we’re seeing one other Messi,” Burruchaga mentioned.

With 5 objectives already in Qatar, that is already Messi’s most profitable when it comes to objectives scored.

Taking part in in bursts, he has mastered the power to provide devastating moments of magic at key instances — most just lately in establishing Argentina’s third purpose towards Croatia on Wednesday, when he left the proficient 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol for useless with a scintillating run.

“I don’t know if it’s my greatest World Cup or not,” Messi mentioned after the Croatia win.

“I’m very glad for ending my journey in World Cups in a closing, to play the final recreation in a closing…. To complete this manner is sensible.”

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