At just 25, very few can claim to have rewritten history by their mid-twenties but Lionel Messi, as we are so often reminded, is not a regular human being. Whilst many of the same age look to grow up and plan for the next step though, Messi too has to enter a new phase of his career. Finished with ‘Gerd Muller’s Guide to Scoring Goals in a Calendar Year’, Messi faces no choice but to divulge himself in another chapter of life like many of us have had to at some point.
Having surpassed the great Muller and the world record altogether, Messi has very little yet to accomplish despite a playing career of just 8 years. Should he retire now, though implausible to a man clearly smitten with the sport, Messi would undoubtedly go down in history as one of, if not the greatest of all time. But for a striker who has very little to still achieve, what is Messi’s motivation?
If you knew Messi’s character then you’d realise why. Messi is the sort of man who floats along without a care, almost entirely transfixed on football. He does very few media interviews and refuses to let his character make headlines by isolating himself with a select few group of close friends. Whilst not cold or stupid, Messi seems to have one thing on his mind at all times – football.
A prime example was his recent injury against Benfica – Guilleme Balague spoke to Messi after the incident and explained that Messi had used grave terms to describe his injury. Quotes such as ‘the end’ and ‘I thought that was it for me’ mock the severity of an injury which failed to keep him on the treatment table for over 3 days. This shows Messi’s endebted desire to play football weekly; it is a pastime delivering immense fulfillment to the Argentine striker.
Watch Messi get scythed down the next time Barcelona play and you see a man intent on continuing his passion. Very rarely does Messi react to a dirty foul unlike many other players and that’s because he is captivated when the ball is in his stride. Going back to the Benfica incident, Messi said that even in grave pain he knew he had to play the ball after receiving contact. It is obvious that Messi has great drive, otherwise he would not have achieved half the success he has so far, but that he appears almost indebted to football as though it had saved his life once before.
He’s an unusual character yet perfect for the game. A lack of motivation won’t occur and neither will a lack of quality. Simply in-love with the game akin to a senior school crush, you fear for the time when he grows too old for the game.
By that time we could well have seen the best ever; more goals than Pele, more trophies than many clubs have ever won and world acclaim; he’s currently on course to succeed in all of those goals but he’s already achieved many. The one missing gem is the World Cup.
Maradona is heralded as the best ever due to his affiliation with the World Cup in ’86 where he almost single handedly took Argentina to the title on home turf. Messi has all the physical attributes and arguably more but to guide a nation overly keen on pinning their hopes on Messi takes something more – something we’ve yet to see from the player.
Current captain of Argentina, for years Messi has been in Maradona’s shadow; groomed into his mould. Yet the two differ extraordinarily in their personalities. Maradona could lead and motivate and inspire whereas Messi drifts through, content on playing football. He’s an ideal captain based on the respect he has earned throughout his career but not based on his character in the dressing room. The frustration for Argentina is that they know they have the best possible player to win the World Cup but not the ideal man to fulfill Maradona’s role. Additionally, the World Cup is held every four years, giving a limited window of opportunity to get things perfect.
Messi’s career has included every high possible but for international honours. It may sound implausible to think of a 40 year old Messi complaining of an incomplete career but that could possibly be the case unless Argentina impress in Brazil, Russia or Qatar. At club level he has only his prior records to aim for but internationally he’s unproven.
Watching Messi play is a privilege every week and he’ll be fondly remembered upon retirement but it will be only himself and Argentina feeling incomplete if the most prized chalice of them all evades his grasp.
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