It is tough to encapsulate the legend of Lionel Messi in mere words. A ballad or an orchestral arrangement would perhaps do more justice after the Argentina talisman finally realised his World Cup dream, helping his side beat France 4-2 on penalties in one of the greatest finals in the tournament’s history.
Messi is 35 but doesn’t look the part. His sudden yet sprightly and unerring runs into the danger area, coupled with deft footwork, still manage to bemuse the odd defender. Croatia’s breakout star Josko Gvardiol would attest to the same.
When there is probably only one in a million chance of converting from the tightest of angles, Messi’s wand of a left foot makes things look easy. Case in point, the opener against Mexico. What made it all the better was that the ball had zipped past custodian Guillermo Ochoa, one known to thrive on the big stage.
There is a strange parallel here with Italian maestro Ludovico Einaudi. He was 50 during the release of ‘Divenire’, one of his greatest compositions. It is how he builds towards enormity from a simple sequence of piano chords that still manages to bewitch listeners across the globe.
There is an air of inevitability and mystique in either of these scenarios.
The Argentine magician’s form in Qatar 2022 mirrors his performance in the 2014 edition. Although the previous campaign had ended in disappointment with a 0-1 loss to Germany in the final at the Maracana, Messi had been a cut above the rest during the competition.
That was the first time he had won the Golden Ball since making his debut for La Albiceleste in 2006. He bagged his second in Qatar, having scored seven of his overall 13 goals in World Cups here and setting up three for his teammates.
If 2014 produced one of the most sombre yet enduring images in the history of the sport — Messi walking past the Cup with his head down — 2022’s photo finish sent millions of football aficionados across the globe into prolonged delirium.
“I wanted to complete my career with this... I can’t ask for more,” Messi said while addressing the media after the biggest night of his career.
Messi had confirmed Qatar 2022 would be his last World Cup, irrespective of the result. Call it divine intervention, but for the footballing luminary, things have come a full circle now. “Finishing my career this way is impressive. After this, what else? I have a Copa America, a World Cup, almost at the very end.
“It’s crazy that it happened this way. I wanted it very much. I knew that God was going to give it to me.
“Look at this cup, it’s beautiful,” he said, still in awe. Somewhere a certain Diego Maradona nods in agreement.
It was nearly poetic that Messi was asked to wear the Bisht, a traditional Qatari black-and-gold cloak, by the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani before he lifted the World Cup trophy, something that hasn’t been seen before. The Messiah, who descended into the desert nation nearly a month ago, had just delivered the final homily.
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