Barcelona star Lionel Messi led Argentina to the country's first international trophy in 28 years at Copa America 2021. The 34-year-old scored four goals and provided five assists for Argentina throughout the course of the tournament.
Since Lionel Messi made his debut for Argentina in 2005, Argentina has finished as runners-up on three occasions. La Albiceleste lost the 2007 final against Brazil as well as the 2015 and 2016 final on penalties to Chile.
Despite having one of the strongest teams in international football over the last three decades, Argentina had failed to win a trophy. Their 1-0 victory over arch-rivals Brazil in the final of Copa America 2021 ended that drought.
Lionel Messi was once again his country's talisman at an international tournament as he played a direct role in nine of the 12 goals Argentina scored this summer.
The Barcelona forward played in his sixth Copa America this summer, more than any other Argentina player in the history of football. He took his goals tally to 13 and assists to 17 in just 34 appearances in the competition.
Lionel Messi's game style and impact on Argentina is often compared to that of the late, great Diego Maradona. Widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time, Maradona was Argentina's talisman at a number of international tournaments during his playing career.
He led his country to glory at the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Maradona's impact on the Argentina national team, and Messi's inability to lead his side to international glory, led many to believe that Maradona edged out the Barcelona star in the argument for the greatest footballer of all time.
Maradona, however, was able to score just four goals in 12 appearances in the Copa America.
Lionel Messi likely to win his seventh Ballon d'Or after Copa America triumph
Lionel Messi was unable to lead Barcelona to a La Liga title or Champions League glory last season. The Argentine did, however, score 38 goals in just 47 appearances for the Catalan giants and guided the club to a Copa del Rey title.
Lionel Messi has often been criticized for his inability to lead Argentina to glory on the international stage. However, with Argentina's Copa America 2021 triumph, the diminutive star has proved his doubters wrong.
Messi's outstanding performances throughout the course of the tournament are likely to result in a seventh Ballon d'Or for the 34-year-old.