The agony and ecstasy of being a Messi fan. That is how this was supposed to start. Well, this visionary line was thought up after Iceland held Argentina to a draw and before Croatia hammered Messi and Co. What transpired at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday night, threw ecstasy right out of the window.

This comes from an unabashed Lionel Messi fan, and, by extension, a self-appointed Messi apologist. Even if weak, much like Argentina has been in its two matches against Iceland and Croatia, this fan still defends Messi, aka La Pulga (The Flea).

There is little chance of winning against his critics, especially when his rival for the GOAT mantle, Cristiano Ronaldo, is setting the World Cup in Russia on fire — scoring with his right foot, left foot, free-kick and header. Ronaldo is scoring goals for fun. Messi isn't scoring any and the fun is a gazillion miles away.

At this point, Messi and Argentina have a mathematical chance of making it through to the Last 16, but will need other results to go its way.

Messi has never dominated at World Cups. It's a cross foisted on him by those who grew up with his countryman Maradona's 1986 World Cup exploits. El Diego was a different beast and Messi will never be a cheeky, liberated genius like him, but that's okay.

He is the originator of his own genius, by his own hand and no sleight of ‘Hand of God’. Watch: Looking back at the "The Hand of God"


Incidentally, today marks 32 years of Maradona's infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal.


Cocooned by a range of high-calibre players at Barcelona for years, primarily Xavi and Andres Iniesta, he captured the imagination of fans of a generation or two or three.

Not blessed with the most imposing physique, his twinkle toes, beauty of a left foot and breadth of footballing vision have more often than not left rivals and the world gasping.

Go back to your childhood, school, college, university days. He is that one player minus the physicality, but the dribbling skills from heaven, who drew your breath away. If you have played football at any level, even street level, chances are you have encountered, such individuals.

Messi at Barcelona is a different creature. Last read, his contract with Barca contains an $843 million (more than ₹5,700 crore at current rates ) buy-out clause. As the astronomical numbers prove, he is valued.

Back home in Argentina, its a more complicated story. Read: Where's Messi? Tributes missing in his native Argentina city

Argentina head coach Jorge Sampaoli's words, months before the World Cup and after two painful results, betray the kind of pressure Messi is under.

Earlier in 2018, he said, “This is going to be his (Messi's) team”. After the 3-0 loss to Croatia, he said that his team did not “gel” and plans to feed Messi with more of the ball failed.

“... With the reality of the Argentina squad, it sort of clouds Leo's brilliance. He's limited because the team doesn't gel with him ideally, as it should. As coaches, we need to deal with this.”

“I've always looked for the best position for my players on the pitch. The playmaker carries a special burden. We didn't manage to find link-ups that would benefit Argentina and Leo.” Read: Sampaoli: Argentina squad 'clouds' Messi's brilliance

Argentina's struggles are a painful sight. The social media chatter is suffocating.

Where are the street-smart plays? Where is the football nous to unleash Messi?

It has been a disastrous start for Messi in Russia. No matter how it ends, he is likely to head back to his Barca nest. Xavi is long gone, Iniesta, too, has called it a day with this team. The order is changing around him.

Messi will exit the stage too one day because no one beats Father Time, because he is mortal. Enjoy him till he lasts. Thankfully, there will always be video footage to make him immortal.