The time when Lionel Messi was jeered by his peers seems so far away… However, this mistrust of the Argentine people towards the one who was by far their best player took a long time to fade. Often criticized by his compatriots who accused him of being a pecho frio – person who does not feel the colors of his country – and victim of his rather self-effacing character, the Paris Saint-Germain player suffered greatly from the comparison with Diego Maradona. More than on the football level, even if some expected to see him lead the Albiceleste to a major title, it was at the level of behavior and leadership that it failed. Many accused Lionel Messi of being too soft, of lacking charisma and character. Always, with this sometimes odious comparison with El Pelusawho never stopped defending the player trained at La Masia during his lifetime.
Even if many tend to forget it, the passionate love story between Lionel Messi and his country could even have ended in huge failures, since in 2016, after a new lost final (that of the Copa América 2016), the one who wore the FC Barcelona tunic at the time, consumed by frustration, had decided to retire from international football. Before changing his mind… Paradoxically, when we could think that it was the end of the end and the straw that would break the camel’s back, that’s when the flame was rekindled. As if the Argentinians had realized that they were in danger of falling short of a hell of a story… It must be said that the native of Rosario had been particularly good during this Copa América Centenario, lost against Chile in the shoot to the net. Messi had also missed his attempt. Returning with some popular support, we also saw a new player, whether in club or in selection.
The Pulga has changed
A more temperamental Messi, who no longer hesitates to drag his leg when necessary, to go head to head with a rival when things start to heat up, to speak more regularly in public. A more Maradonian Messi, in short, and that pleased the Argentines a lot. On the field, his game has also changed. With age, inevitably, he changed register. Gone is the Messi who multiplies the rushes and overflows everywhere on the lawn, make way for a Lionel Messi more playmaker and master to play, often a little lower on the ground, always able to make differences on his own but also able to regulate the rhythm and let go of this deadly pass that will break lines. This change of register helped, inevitably, since the few detractors who remained could no longer accuse him of hiding, turning to other players when it was necessary to find the culprits.
Over time, he also started to take his ease on the pitch in the national team, and the arrival of Lionel Scaloni also had a huge role in that. The Argentinian coach was able to place Messi in a certain comfort, surrounded by warriors ready to do anything to support him, relieving the number 10 of the thankless tasks and allowing him to concentrate, above all, on the offensive game. This did not prevent the principal concerned from lending a hand when it was necessary to defend, which we hardly ever see in a club for example. Completely seduced by the star of their selection, the Argentines, both supporters and journalists and players, have completely adhered to this policy of Messi y diez másMessi and ten others, assumed by everyone.
Has Messi overtaken Maradona?
In the stands or in the streets of Buenos Aires, Mendoza or Rosario, there was only Messi, although other players were also acclaimed. And inevitably, the comparison with Maradona is again on the table … but in a good way this time. No more question of keeping Messi away from D10S, but to approach it or even place it on the same level. If there were still any doubts, just look at the many banners unfurled in the stadiums or the Argentine cities where the two were represented together, the chants of the supporters where the two names were chanted together, or watch a few minutes of an Argentine program to understand that little Leo has risen to the level of big Diego. And it was clearly not easy, since Maradona “benefited” from a different context, with the Falklands war and the end of the military dictatorship in particular, which made him more than a football player and a real hero. and symbol of a country. The fact that Messi left very early for Europe, having never worn the colors of a big local club at professional level, has also played against him for a long time.
Finally a prophet in his country, in short. Nobody really dares to say that he is above Maradona, as the image and impact of the latter remain unattainable in the country of Pope Francis. The two are fused, have made millions of compatriots happy and have written the history of a country in crisis, divided socially and politically, which needed to go out to party and celebrate something. Since yesterday, a quote from Maradona in a documentary by filmmaker Emir Kusturica has resurfaced in the media and on social media: “Do you know what a player I could have been if I hadn’t taken cocaine? ». The answer is obvious and can be summed up in five letters…
Argentina: Lionel Messi can finally sit at Diego Maradona’s table