The 2022 FIFA World Cup ended in bizarre fashion, when Argentina fended off a fierce 2018 world champion multiple times in the final to win the game on penalties. The title was La Albiceleste’s third in the history of football, cementing its winning captain and seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi as the best football player ever. La Pulga was influential during the entire tournament, bagging personal honours such as the Golden Ball award, five Man of the Match awards, seven goals and three assists.
The player had since returned to outclass his opponents in the French Ligue 1, but had spoken about his wish of having the previous Argentina World Cup-winning captain, the late Diego Maradona handing him the trophy in Qatar last December.
From One World Cup-Winning Captain to Another
Argentine great Maradona, who passed more than two years ago due to a cardiac arrest, was one of Messi’s biggest fans ever, and the latter is also the godfather of Maradona’s grandson and Sergio Agüero’s son, Benjamin Agüero. In a recent interview, the 35-year-old Messi spoke about hoping to have Maradona witnessing La Albiceleste’s triumphant moment in Qatar, “I would have liked Diego to give me the cup, or at least to see all this, to see Argentina as world champions, with everything he wanted and how he loved the national team,” Messi said.
The player from Paris Saint-Germain also highlighted that, “I think from above, he – like a lot of people who love me – were strong. I think if I had to choose the moment, it would have been this one. It’s at the end of my career, closing a cycle. I achieved everything with the national team as I always dreamed. I got everything in my career, individually. It was about closing my career in a unique way. I never imagined that all this was going to happen to me when I started, and getting to this moment was the best. I have no complaints and I can’t ask for more. We won the Copa America [in 2021] and the World Cup, there’s nothing left.”
Hand of God in 1986
The 25-year-old Diego Maradona was Argentina’s captain in the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, and this was the time when Argentines last won the world title prior to the 2022 edition. He was Argentina’s best player in the tournament, winning the Golden Ball honour and scoring five goals, including the famous “Hand of God” as well as the “Goal of the Century” against England in the quarterfinal. The attacking midfielder, who notably graced the no. 10 jersey like Messi does, also helped Argentina to lift the CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions trophy in 1993 and even managed the national football team from November 2008 till July 2010, enjoying a 75% winning statistics as the head coach of La Albiceleste.
Eight Ballon d’Or on the Way for Messi?
It will be interesting to see if Messi, who had inspired his country to a third World Cup glory, would be given another Ballon d’Or to honour his success in the football industry. Should the award be presented to him, it would be his eighth overall, three more than his lifetime rival and the all-time leading scorer of men’s international football, Cristiano Ronaldo. La Pulga’s form in his second season in France had lived up to its usual standards as the player had scored 15 goals in 24 appearances for the French Ligue 1 powerhouse. There have been talks regarding his contract extension with the 10-time Ligue 1 champion as well.
Messi and his PSG teammate Kylian Mbappé were named in EA Sports’ FIFA 23’s Team of the Year, check out who else were picked here.