5 things Lionel Messi must do to become the best in the world again
The 2017/18 season was a relatively rough one for Lionel Messi, as despite winning the European Golden Boot for the fifth time in his career, he once more faltered in the Champions League, and watched on haplessly as Barcelona was bundled out of the UCL at the quarter-final stage in unbelievable circumstances to AS Roma.
Furthermore, he failed in his duties to lead Argentina to the promise land of World Cup glory, and was roundly criticized for his lethargic performance in Russia.
The result of all this was that Messi found his legacy as the greatest player in history seriously questioned, consequently missing out on the top three final nominees for a FIFA award for the first time in over a decade.
Messi could only watch from the sidelines as Luka Modric was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, following his starring role in helping Real Madrid retain the Champions League, as well as his Silver Ball-winning performance in skippering Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.
Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in history, and at a point in the not too distant past, unequivocally held sway as the best player in the world, winning an unprecedented four consecutive Ballon d’Ors between 2009 and 2012, and he would be determined to rise back to his perch atop the pecking order in the hierarchy of football.
To do that, however, would be no mean feat, as Modric has paved the way for other players to aim for Ronaldo and Messi’s previously exclusive crown, and the 31-year-old Barcelona skipper has to put certain things in place to sit back on his throne. Here are five things Messi has to do in order to become the best in the world again.
#5 Retire from international football
Strange? Yes, it is very strange to suggest that the one thing Messi needs to cement his legacy as the GOAT is what he should he should give up pursuing in order to reclaim top spot, but hear me out.
Argentina has not won any form of international silverware since 1993, while it has been 32 long years (before Messi was born) since La Albiceleste last won the World Cup.
In that time, multiple world-class talents such as Gabriel Batistuta, Hernan Crespo, Juan Sebastian Veron and Diego Simeone as well as media proclaimed ‘next Maradonas’ such as Ariel Ortega and Javier Saviola have come and gone with the results all ending in the same way- heartbreak.
Then came along Messi who announced himself to the world at the 2005 World Youth Championship in Netherlands, where his Golden Ball performance helped his country lift the title in a hard-fought victory over Nigeria much in the same way as Maradona himself did at the first ever edition of the tournament in 1979.
Messi had not so much as broken into the first team at Barcelona when the comparisons began. He was seen as Maradona’s heir apparent, and this time the comparisons seemed to be more legitimate than others.
Both players' low center of gravity, diminutive stature and devastating close control meant they had an identical style of play, coupled with the fact that Messi scored two eerily similar goals to Maradona’s most famous or infamous (depending on where you stand on the divide) goals against Espanyol and Getafe.
Argentina had found its new Messiah, and they could begin to dream of the World Cup again. However, just like they had become accustomed to, Messi couldn’t carry them across the finish line. Too young to impact in 2006, the master-student partnership with Maradona in 2010 also flopped, while they came agonizingly close in 2014 before the shambles of 2018.
There have also been defeats in Copa America finals, and with four final defeats, Messi has had more than his fair share of international silver medals.
Even though the more logical thing to do would be to continue having a shot at international glory, it might be more realistic for Messi to shut up shop and hand over to the next generation, accepting that it might not just be with him and Argentina, as sometimes nature conspires to rob humans of the thing they crave the most despite their hardest efforts, with a prime example being Ronaldo de Lima who despite being one of the all time greats and playing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, never lifted the Champions League in his illustrious career.
With every disappointment Messi suffers with Argentina, his legacy takes a hit, and in the interest of his personal glory, he should take the back seat and retire from international football.