Lionel Messi status as the best player of all time was already set before he won the World Cup

Lionel Messi status as the best player of all time was already set before he won the World Cup

Lionel Messi has played in 1003 games, scored 793 goals (and counting), and won seven Ballon d’Or awards, but for many people, his legacy is still about one afternoon of football.

At a World Cup where the atmosphere has been inconsistent, Lionel Messi presence in what will likely be his last game was enough to make the Lusail Stadium a fiercely partisan place. It says it all.

Even before the game started, it was clear that Lionel Messi would be the star. There was a lot of stress. Even so, it’s nothing he isn’t used to. And most importantly, the event didn’t change the fact that he was the best football player ever.

Storylines and subplots that change all the time make a World Cup great, so it’s fitting that the tournament ended similarly. Messi has seemed immortal for a long time, but he is 35 years old, and his football skills are naturally getting worse. The clock was running, which was fine.

“Winning the World Cup is just the icing on the cake of a career that probably won’t happen again.”

But Argentina went into the World Cup having won the Copa America and has not lost in 36 games. All of the hype was true. This could be the time in the fall of his career when Messi finally wins the most prestigious prize in football. And with long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo trying to reach the same goal but setting everything around him on fire, La Albiceleste seemed to be on the right track.

That was until Saudi Arabia beat them in the first game. Argentina looked completely stunned, and Messi looked like he was about to die. Everyone’s dream story was being ripped apart and rewritten in a way that reminded me of the last few hours Vince McMahon was in charge of WWE.

But what’s the fun in a story where nothing goes wrong?

The fact that Argentina lost on day one only made their run to the final and Messi’s performances along the way more impressive. The phrase “one last dance” has been used a lot during the 2022 World Cup, but it fits with how the Paris Saint-Germain forward has chosen his moments to turn back the clock, slaloming around defenders and setting up goals in the blink of an eye.

In the quarter-final match against the Netherlands, he scored and helped set up a goal. In the semi-final match against Croatia, he did the same thing. When you add in Messi’s classic performance in the final against France, it was an unforgettable tournament for the dangerous man from Rosario. He was a crucial part of Argentina’s excellent performance against Les Bleus, but it all came crashing down when the heir to the throne and PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe scored the winning goal.

Even though there was a lot of drama, nothing changed because Mbappe made France come back in a big way at the end. Nothing. Messi is the best football player of all time right now, win or lose, and one trophy can’t change that.

Instead, winning the World Cup is just the cherry on top of a long and successful career that is unlikely to be repeated.

It is ridiculous to put the legacy of a football player who has raised the bar to unimaginable heights over the last 20 years on the chance that he will win one trophy.

Since 2004, Messi has changed the game with superhuman feats for his club and country. It is the highest level of disrespect to say that his career depends on whether or not he wins the World Cup, which is decided in the end by one match.

He has now played in more World Cups than anyone else, scored the most goals for Argentina, and scored the same number of goals as Pele and Mbappe. He will also be the only player to have helped score at five different tournaments. When you add that to what he did for his club, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t the best, whether or not he won a trophy.

But it once seemed like we’d never see someone like him again, but Mbappe stepped up on the world stage and did the unthinkable. The world didn’t know what to say when he scored a hat-trick in response to Messi’s superhuman feats. The Frenchman has just reached an immortal level, but the Argentine doesn’t look like he will die. At just 23.

That remarkable three-goal streak made it clear in a scary way that he would do everything in his power to beat Messi, which seemed impossible for a long time.

But greatness always wins, and Messi had to write the last chapter in a tournament full of stories. He had to put the cherry on top of a cake that had already been made. The cake was made to honor the Argentine as the best there is, was, and ever will be.

Accept your suffering. Let it all be part of Messi’s journey to the top, which isn’t going to be perfect. Messi had and still has GOAT status, no matter how hard his apprentice tries to change that in the years to come.