Monday, November 21, 2022. Media Center in Doha. The clock reads 4:18 p.m. in Qatar and Lionel Messi takes the stage in front of a packed house for his one and only World Cup press conference. There hasn't been a free place for thirty minutes, journalists from all over the world are there, impatient to question, listen and catch a glimpse of the legend before the Albiceleste enters the competition the next day against Saudi Arabia . Some colleagues are hoping for a souvenir photo. The atmosphere is unreal. “We must make our dream a reality,” says the native of Rosario, in an agreed but mobilizing speech, which will emerge from the media exercise to the applause of certain South American colleagues in a trance. The stage is set. Crazy pressure. The excessive wait. The fabulously exciting challenge.
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24 hours later, Argentina lost its feet against the Saudi selection of Hervé Renard (1-2) for a cataclysmic start to the World Cup on the lawn of the sumptuous Lusail stadium... before Messi and his gladiators returned as heroes to lift the coveted trophy after a Homeric final against the French team (3-3, 4 tab to 2) on December 18. With seven goals and three assists to his credit during the first World Cup played in winter, including two against the Blues of Kylian Mbappé, author of a hat-trick, the legendary number 10 touches the Grail for the first (and undoubtedly last ) times of his career and accomplished his mission. Argentina won its third star after 1978 and 1986 and the Pulga definitively entered the heart of its country. Alongside Diego Maradona, the other demi-God of the overexcited “hinchas”.
For his remarkable performances, at an advanced age (he was 35 years old in Qatar), Lionel Messi (178 caps, 106 goals) was rewarded with his eighth Ballon d'Or (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, 2021) Monday evening at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Logical and expected. By taking his nation to the roof of the world, for his fifth participation in the biggest competition (he holds the record of 26 matches played in the history of the World Cup), the silky left-hander ticks all the boxes and registers yet another little more in the legend by succeeding Karim Benzema, winner last year. His tasteless performances at Paris SG, including an inglorious elimination in the round of 16 of the Champions League against Bayern Munich, ultimately counted for little. The World Cup crushes everything. And it is quite normal that the greatest individual reward goes to the best player after a month of fighting, tension and suspense. Simple. Basic. In 2023, Messi dominates the debates for the 67th Ballon d'Or in history, with a large vote in his favor from the 100 specialist journalists representing the first 100 in the Fifa rankings. The suspense did not exist.
The former FC Barcelona and Paris SG player, now pre-retiring at Inter Miami, is easily ahead of Erling Haaland, author of a historic hat-trick with Manchester City (Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup) and Kylian Mbappé , fabulous at the World Cup with three goals in the final and top scorer in the competition. The global impact of the victory in Qatar, his performance throughout the World Cup where he led a selection undoubtedly less talented than the other nations but with an extraordinary state of mind with bravery and devotion from all sides. moments, will have got the better of the fabulous season of the Norwegian and the number of the Frenchman, his partner in Paris, who ultimately only missed being in the winning camp in Doha... A summary of all the beauty and the dramaturgy of high-level sport. Some will find fault with the coronation of Messi, who arrived as a star in Paris and left through the back door last summer, with behavior and performance not up to the immense expectations, but on the field, the lucky ones who attended his performances as a majestic conductor in Qatar will evoke these moments suspended until the end of their lives. The footballer marked his time. Of the most beautiful prints. That of the lords and the greatest. For ever.
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In the history of football, whatever anyone says, Lionel Messi now sits at the top, for his consistency (8 Ballons d'Or in 19 seasons), his titles (World Cup, Copa America, 4 Champions Leagues). , 12 national titles…), his goals and his impact on the game. At 35 years old last winter, he was targeted in every meeting, had to contend with two or even three opponents as soon as he had the ball, and if the The arbitration granted him some largesse, Messi made Mexicans, Poles, Australians, Dutch, Croatians and French cry. They were all warned, knew his mannerisms, his dribbles and his calls. In vain. At the top of his art, a legend remains untouchable, like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods or Roger Federer, to name a few.
Within the gas state, the puny Argentinian (1.69 m, 67 kg), in a modern football that is increasingly muscular, body-built and decathlete, fulfilled his mission like a legendary Diego Maradona in 1986 with the Albiceleste. Enough to definitively close the debate between the two Argentine idols? Not sure. This is also what gives the charm and salt of the number one sport in the world. An exceptional soloist and man of few words, the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner, who will be 39 years old at the next 2026 World Cup, is pushing the cursor to standards that are now difficult to achieve. Between dream, respect and ecstasy. But above all forever in the legend.