09 july 2014
After Spain won the World Cup, Lionel Messi would ask his Barcelona teammates what it was like. How it felt to lift that golden trophy, to be at the heart of an elated country’s celebration.
It defied description, they told him. It was something he’d have to experience himself.
It’s Argentina that will play Germany in the World Cup final on Sunday after beating the Netherlands in a penalty shootout Wednesday night. But let there be no doubt:
This game is all about — is only about — Messi.
“As a player, winning a World Cup is the best there is,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “It’s something you dream about when you are a kid, and it never disappears.”
There is little doubt Messi is the greatest player of his generation. He is superbly sublime when he’s in a Barcelona uniform, his ability to conjure goals out of thin air and his sleight of feet the envy of any magician.
He’s the only player to win the Ballon D’Or, given to the world’s best player, four times, and it would take until Sunday’s final to list the rest of his individual honors. Between the Spanish league (six) and the Champions League (three), he has more titles than some royals.
But the knock on Messi has always been that he’s never as good for country as he is for club.
Oh sure, he has a gold medal from the Beijing Olympics. But the World Cup is the only measuring stick that matters, and that’s where Messi has always fallen short.