Messi es Messi: Does World Cup title finally pull Lionel Messi out of Maradona’s shadow?

Lionel Messi finally won the World Cup title he so wanted. For some, this was an award he needed in order to be considered the greatest player of all time. If this is the only missing piece, the debate is over. By winning the World Cup with Argentina, Messi raised his name and all his achievements to unprecedented heights.

Right after Sunday’s final, of course, Messi’s place as the best player of all time was a popular topic. Some of the biggest names in sport have paid tribute to him on social media, calling Messi everything from “a gift from the football gods”, according to Gary Lineker, to “the best he ever had”, in the words of Gary Lineker. Alan Shearer the athlete. Tennis superstar Andy Murray has asked his followers if Messi should not only be considered the best soccer player ever, but the best athlete.

A bit of a modernist bias, isn’t it? Remember, Pele won three World Cups with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970. But for sure, there is nothing else for Messi to achieve in football. He’s won four Champions Leagues, seven Ballons d’Or, 11 league titles with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, the Copa America once, and now, the World Cup is just a long way off.

In Qatar, Messi scored his 98th goal for Argentina and passed Gabriel Batistuta to become the nation’s top scorer at World Cup finals. Messi’s numbers alone – and his longevity at the top of the sport – are fascinating facts underscoring his current honour.

The World Cup also put Messi ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the long debate to determine the best of their generation. Of course, there is nothing more to discuss.

But there is still another argument to be made.

Messi’s place alongside Diego Armando Maradona, a player who has been deified for more than 30 years in Argentina, remains precarious. Messi is no longer among the greats to never win a World Cup, however, in Argentina, he may never outgrow Maradona’s shadow.

Messi led Argentina to the top. He is beloved by millions around the world, and now, he is finally fully accepted as an Argentine soccer legend after years of tension, doubts, and harsh criticism from fans and media back home.

However, there are still some naysayers.

It’s true, Messi played well, relatively well,” Hugo “El Loco” Gatti said in a controversial interview on Spain’s El Chiringito show. Gatti is a former goalkeeper who won 18 caps for Argentina in the 1960s and 1970s. “I said that for me, (Kylian) Mbappe is the best player in the world with the most potential. They will say I am anti-Argentinian because I call things the way I see them.”

Argentine newspaper La Nacion described Gatti’s comments about Messi’s performance in the final as “ridiculous”. The daring Gatti played for both River Plate and Boca Juniors and was named Argentina Footballer of the Year in 1982. He was in goal for Boca on November 9, 1980 – the day Maradona scored four goals in a 5-3 victory. Largentinos Juniors.

When asked if Messi has outgrown Maradona, Gatti said how many Maradona fans around the world feel about this decades-old debate.

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“First of all, nobody will beat Pele, and here in Argentina, nobody will beat Diego,” Gatti said. “I don’t know if I’m telling the truth, but it’s the truth, because of the way I’ve lived my football, how I’ve played it and what I see now.”

Prejudices will always exist in Argentina between those who saw Maradona at his peak and those who set Messi as the gold standard. Of course, El Chiringuito is a program famous for its support for Real Madrid. The show’s hosts and analysts have been actively rooting against Messi and Argentina throughout the World Cup.

Ahead of the final between Argentina and France, they forgave Mbappe for refusing Real Madrid over the summer, and begged the French star to prevent Messi from winning the World Cup. Personal loyalties have also influenced opinions about Messi and Maradona.

After Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 in the World Cup semi-finals, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni did not hesitate to put Messi above Maradona.

“(Messi) is the best player ever,” Scaloni told reporters. “Sometimes it seems we are just saying it because we are Argentine, as if we are guilty of being selfish by saying he is the best player in history, but I believe it. Without a doubt.”

These words of Scaloni were criticized by Angel Capa, former manager in Argentina for several clubs, and former Barcelona assistant under Argentine legend Cesar Luis Menotti in 1983. In an interview with Spanish radio station Marca before the final, Capa called out Scaloni’s opinion. Messi is “exaggerated” and “short-sighted”.

“After (Alfredo) Di Stéfano, Pele, (Johan) Cruyff and Maradona, comes Messi, who now wears his fifth world football title and he fully deserves it,” said Capa. “I’m sure Scaloni didn’t see Cruyff or Di Stéfano or other players. (Messi) as the best player of the moment and this generation, I have no doubts, but of all time? No, there’s a lot of history.”

If he relied solely on sporting achievements, Messi would blow Maradona out of the water. And if we were to compare the two based on who had the better touch, who was faster or who had the more accurate left foot, we would enter a fixed area of ​​subjectivity.

“I think there’s no discussion because it’s not apples-to-apples,” he said. Telemundo commentator Andres Kantor said the athlete. “Diego Maradona played in a different era and a different kind of football. In muddy fields. He hit below the knee, in the knee, he hit hard and got up. With the quality of the pitches these players play today, Diego would have been the best without any argument.”

The Argentine Cantor witnessed Maradona’s dominance himself. He covered the 1986 World Cup in Mexico for the Argentina-based El Grafico magazine. Cantor said he was “happy with Messi” and described Messi as “the greatest player of our time right now”.

He added, “Diego, for me, because of what you described, was the best of all.” “So was Pele before. I don’t know if anyone wants to argue. You have to contextualize the debate if you’re going to argue who is better.”

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Maradona symbolized much more for Argentines, and continues to do so two years after his death. He embodied their struggle against the system as an activist against the rich and powerful. Maradona was the people’s hero. An unparalleled leader. His beginnings as a young star in 1979 came during the military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina.

The Videla government reportedly interfered with Barcelona’s intention to acquire Maradona from Argentinos Juniors in 1980. Carlos Alberto Lacoste, a former marine, was a confidant of Videla and a key government figure who helped organize the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. He later held a position with FIFA. Together with newly appointed president of the Argentine Football Association Julio Humberto Grondona, Lacoste instituted a rule in Argentina that national team players, or players under the age of 22, should not be allowed to play abroad.

Maradona would continue to speak out against the atrocities and disappearances of this regime throughout his life. For years, Maradona has called out FIFA and CONMEBOL for their corruption, much to the delight of his followers in Argentina and around the world.

When US federal prosecutors unsealed a wide-ranging corruption case against FIFA officials in 2015, Maradona celebrated the news.

He said, “They called me crazy, but thank God today the truth came out and I am enjoying it.” “When we get to FIFA, not every official should go. The good ones will stay. But the bad ones, I’m going to kick them all in the ass.”

Maradona’s public battles with drug addiction made him imperfect, but his flaws endeared him even more to the people of Argentina.

These facts, along with his extraordinary skill, have made Maradona an untouchable figure in a country still grappling with economic hardship. In this sense, Maradona has always held the Holy Land as a symbol of hope. Argentina glorifies soccer stars when they succeed, and ruthlessly devours them when they fail. Maradona made enemies and certainly hit rock bottom as a person, but in the eyes of his countrymen, he was always on the rise.

There is even Maradona’s Church, where he is worshiped in every sense of the word. The church has its own set of ten commandments and is said to have over 500,000 adherents around the world. It sounds silly but for the religious Maradonians, it is their Church of God.

After retiring in 1997, Maradona never left the limelight. He was a guest analyst across South America during the World Cup, starred on late-night talk shows in Argentina and Italy, and then coached Messi and Argentina at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Maradona was a showman, somewhat of a leading figure in a squad that has dazzled 45 million Argentines for decades. In Argentina, the Messi or Maradona debate is often settled by simply saying “Diego es Diego”. And there is nothing more to it.

Within this context, the question is whether Messi will have the same lasting power culturally in Argentina, after he retires and stops hoarding goals and trophies. Much of what Messi stands for, both in popular culture and in sports, centers almost exclusively around what he does on the soccer field. He is relatively mild-mannered and soft-spoken, although Messi in Qatar had Maradona-like moments of rebellion.

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Messi mocked Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal during the tense quarter-final, and celebrated in front of the opponent’s bench. And from the mixed zone, he again attacked the Dutch coach.

“Van Gaal says they play good football, but what he did was put tall people and hit long balls,” said Messi. He then went further by calling Holland striker Wout Weghorst an idiot when the Dutch striker tried to force his way towards Messi after the match to shake his hand.

“What are you looking at, idiot?” Messi shouted twice. “Get out of here, you idiot. Get away.”

Messi’s quote quickly went viral. It has landed on T-shirts in Buenos Aires and Doha. That was representative of Argentina’s confrontational stance at this World Cup, which was celebrated by Argentina’s vice-president, Cristina Kirchner. on Twitter With the name “Maradonian”.

And this is what Messi has always followed – a cultural and sporting comparison with the great Maradona. His performances in Argentina have been described as Maradona-esque, or more specifically as “Maradonear”, an act unique to Argentina.

“Messi is Maradona in this World Cup,” said Jorge Valdano shortly before Sunday’s final. Valdano was a teammate of Maradona at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He scored in the final when Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2 at the Azteca Stadium.

“(Messi) illustrates the essence of football,” Valdano continued. “It’s great to watch him now. He doesn’t lack any energy and has to maximize every last drop of his talent. If you don’t like Messi, you don’t like football.”

Messi will not be bothered by this controversy. Nor would he ever put himself above Maradona in public. He won the World Cup – a year after he won the Copa America, which Maradona never did. Messi is now revered by the men, women and children of his native country, a few years after a statue of him appeared in Buenos Aires. repeatedly sabotage In 2016 and 2017, a time when Messi walked away from the national team amid growing dissatisfaction with the team’s failures.

Argentine journalist Sofia Martinez He said it better When I stopped Messi in the mixed area of ​​Lusail Stadium after Argentina’s semi-final victory over Croatia: “I just want to tell you that no matter the results, there is something no one can take from you, and that is the fact that you resonated with the Argentines, one by one You really made your mark on everyone’s lives, and for me that’s bigger than winning the World Cup.”

What Messi has always longed for is to be accepted as a legend of Argentine football, not the best player ever. And now, for millions around the world, Messi is Messi. end of story.

(Photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images)


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