Is Lionel Messi a choker?
Here we are again. One year later, Copa America 2016 ends with two defining images – that of a jubilant Chile lifting the cup and a dejected Lionel Messi feeling like the world is against him as he endures another loss in the final.
The Copa America is the biggest stage for South American football and there is always extra pressure on the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia etc. to come out all guns blazing. Sure, there have been plenty of fireworks right from the start for the Argentinians but to falter once again at the final hurdle just begs the question: is Lionel Messi a choker in international football?
The magician announced his retirement from International football – a decision a lot of people suspect was taken in the heat of the moment. Will he do a Zidane and come back one last time? Or is this the final time we see him don the Argentinian jersey and armband?
Saving his worst for the last:
Make no qualms about it; the fact that Leo Messi is in your team increases your chances of winning greatly. Time and time and time again he has shown his flair and ability to take matches by the scruff of its neck and win them. But how often has one seen him do that for Argentina? As fans, we are so used to his exploits in the Blaugrana that we always have the same high expectations from him on the international stage.
It is not like he has not delivered at all. Messi has scored goals for Argentina in tourneys, but they have mostly been in matches that they would have won without him anyway. In a star-studded squad like Argentina, Messi is the crown jewel who adds that extra bit of sheen to take (or make them look like) next level stuff.
The man has however diminished when it comes to the final frontier. In four finals (Copa America 2007, 2015, 2016 and the 2014 World Cup), he has failed to make a telling mark on the final game. He has otherwise shown his class when it comes to knockouts, but finals have seen him play a peripheral role almost always.
Sure, he cannot take all the blame, but the greatest of all times leave their mark when it matters the most – Pele in the 1962 and 1970 World Cups, Maradona in 1986 and Zidane in 1998 come to mind. It is harsh to say Messi has not tried, but he has not delivered and history will remember him as the unluckiest legend on the biggest stage.