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When God became mortal: The Lionel Messi saga

742   //    28 Jun 2016, 18:12 IST
Leo Messi
The frustration of the media and the fans has driven Messi to retirement from international football.

Lionel Messi-the diminutive Argentine who, some might argue, is the greatest football player of all time. Yet somehow, at the international scene, the man from Rosario, has not had quite replicated the success he has enjoyed at club level. The loss to Chile for the second successive year at Copa America 2016 has proved to be the final nail in the coffin, as far as Messi’s international career goes. Yet, the abrupt retirement from the international game does not quite seem to join the dots. More so, it doesn’t tell half the story.

Messi has always been dubbed as the “new Maradona”, and has always lived in his shadow as far as international football goes. Diego Maradona hs been immortalised by the Argentine folk. More specifically for the one singular achievement that has superseded all the off-field antics he had been plagued with throughout his career- bringing the World Cup back to Argentina. This has made Maradona a cult figure in the eyes of the Argentines.

Lionel Messi, when handed over the captaincy by Maradona himself at the 2010 World Cup, heralded the start of what the Argentinians thought would be a period of grand success. Yet it was the beginning of many disappointments that was to follow Messi for the next six years. Having gone out to Germany in the 2010 World Cup, Messi was criticised heavily, for not being able to replicate his club form in national colors. 4 years later, Messi captained the side again. This time to the World Cup final in Brazil where again, they bowed out to Germany. A year later, they lost yet another final to Chile in the Copa America. Today, too, despite having made it to the final, they failed to cross over the finishing line. All this presents a very rudimentary idea of why Messi hung his boots.

Messi was quoted as saying, “It’s four finals. It’s not for me. Unfortunately, we tried, I tried, but that’s it. I’ve tried a lot to be champion with Argentina. It didn’t happen. I couldn’t do it.”

These lines might indicate that the great Argentine had quit, had given up, because he couldn’t be a champion. The tears that followed after today’s defeat told a completely different story. This is a man who was drowned by the Argentine media, by the many fanatical fans who never saw the man for the genius that he was, never appreciated his passion for Argentina. Always heckled and harassed by the fans and media for not supposedly being as good as Maradona. The sad part being they never tried looking at the bigger picture.

This is a man, who could have won it all with Spain, had he chose to play with them. But instead, all he ever dreamt of was to play for the Albiceleste. But today, this kid’s dream lay broken, washed away with his tears. Messi always played to enjoy the game, played like he used to back on the streets in Rosario. Yet, the constant pressure from all sides, coupled with unrests within the dressing room, led to his early premature exit from the game.

Pep Guardiola had said once, “Don’t try to write about him, just enjoy him”. Yet the media did the exact opposite. Criticizing and blaming him for all defeats. Pointing fingers at Messi, when he tried his best to get his team over the line. Messi is a man who needs to feel loved, but in today’s world, love comes only with trophies. The fans and the media failed to realise what a phenomenon he was for them, because Messi couldn’t do what Diego Maradona did – bring home the World Cup.

A player, who gave his all on the pitch, playing like each game was his last. Yet, the ones who were watching him were blinded by the failures of Messi on the national scene. Aguero had said today that he never saw Messi, as crestfallen as after today’s game, and that “many people” wanted him out. Today is the death of football. Where emotion, loyalty, and passion is so blindsided by the money, and what trophies one can get, the beauty of football is lost, and Messi is the prime example of it.

It's said, you don’t know what you have till it’s gone. Now that Messi’s hung up his boots, the international game has lost one of the greatest players ever. The ugly side of football has won. And now that he is gone, there is a big hole in the world of football.

 Lionel Messi, you will be missed.

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