Lionel Messi’s last World Cup goal
Argentina soccer star Lionel Messi got off to a good start on Tuesday after scoring for his mother country in their World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia.
However, the match took an unexpected David and Goliath turn and Argentina ended up losing 1-2 – a huge disappointment for one of the teams that had been hoping to win the competition.
The surprise defeat raises the stakes even higher for Messi, who, at 35, faces one of the most important tournaments of his storied career.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Messi is also one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the sport with a record seven rewards in his club career, mostly for FC Barcelona.
Yet despite all his success at the club level, Messi has yet to win the biggest trophy of all for his homeland.
According to Messi, the World Cup in Qatar 2022 will be his last shot.
“They were difficult days,” said Argentinian football agent Horacio Gaggioli, who gave Messi his first contract with the Spanish club, famously signed on a napkin.
Gaggioli recalled seeing the young player cry more than once when his family was separated and his mother returned to Argentina.
Messi also had to inject himself into his legs every day to treat a growth hormone disorder.
But in his career, the migration paid off and Messi grew up surrounded by other great players.
Gaggioli said Messi’s teammates were so good that they often served him goals on a tray so he had to nudge the ball into the net.
Messi has lost four international finals playing for his native country. In 2016, he announced that he was leaving the team but later withdrew.
The turning point came last year with the Copa América when Argentina took home the trophy after defeating their nemesis, Brazil, in the final.
It was Messi’s first major trophy with Argentina and came as a symbol that he too can lead his country to international glories, like Pelé for Brazil, Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal, or Maradona, Argentina’s last football hero.
Years of mismanagement had brought the club to the brink of bankruptcy and spending cuts imposed by the Spanish league meant they could no longer keep hold of their star player.
“I came to the club as a little boy,” Messi said at his last press conference. Fighting back tears, Messi said he regretted not having the chance to say goodbye to Barcelona fans due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Messi moved to Paris and signed for the French club PSG
After a tough year, he came back in great form just in time for the World Cup.
Messi’s bitter departure from Barcelona left many soccer fans hoping for the ultimate act of redemption, and even non-Argentinians relishing the prospect of him winning the World Cup.
“Football owes Messi this World Cup,” said Aleida Campos, a soccer fan who recently visited Barcelona’s stadium from Mexico.
I know I’m young, but my father saw Pelé, Maradona and he told me that apart from Pelé, Messi is the best player he’s ever seen,” Campos said.
“I don’t care if Mexico loses,” she said. “Even though my country is playing against Argentina, I really want Messi to win this World Cup.”
Argentina faces Mexico this Saturday and Poland next Wednesday.
Another loss would automatically knock Messi out of the tournament and amount to excruciating humiliation.
However, some believe that Messi’s legacy as a football legend will not be tarnished by a lack of success at the World Cup.
“I think his story has been written in a way,” said sports journalist Guillem Balagué, author of Messi’s authorized biography.
“If he loses, his legacy will still be elusive and untouched,” he said. “Those born in the last 30 years, 40 years, even 50 years, will think they haven’t seen anything better.”
However, Balagué said Qatar 2022 may not be Messi’s last World Cup.” I see the twist: he leaves, and then when the next World Cup comes around, we’ll see where he is, we’ll see if he gets invited to the national side,” he said.