A big happy birthday to the Argentina captain Lionel MESSI and a personal message from myself to everyone willing to read.
Already 31 years old, it’s difficult to say something about MESSI which hasn’t already been said. At times, it feels as though we take him for granted. We forget just how good he really is because he does what he does on a regular basis.
No longer is he the mullet haired little guy who runs around dribbling half of the team. Instead, he’s matured into much more than that. He has turned into a player who calculates his dribbles, he drops deep into midfield and plays passes on the same level as those of MARADONA’s, RIQUELME’s or ZIDANE’s. His finishes are as good as RONALDO’s, MULLER’s, BATISTUTA’s or VAN BASTEN’s. When needed, he will track back and help out his back line to retrieve the ball. In short, he’s become the ultimate footballer.
Wearing the captain’s armband for any country is not easy let alone one that is as demanding and at times as unfair as Argentina. We often forget that MESSI (not only MESSI, but this generation) have gone through so much. Let’s not forget that had it not been for MESSI’s four goals in the group stages in 2014, there would not have been a knockout phase for Argentina in Brazil. Had it not been for MESSI’s performances throughout the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers or his hat trick in Quito, there would not even be a World Cup appearance.
Players of other country’s come out and say that MESSI needs help, he cannot do it all alone. Yet there are fans of the Albiceleste which want MESSI dropped from the team, which question his desire, which ask why he walks and not runs at times on the pitch. We have a tendency to hate on players of our team when things are going wrong yet look back years later wishing they were still on the team.
Juan Roman RIQUELME, Esteban CAMBIASSO, Roberto AYALA were all heavily criticized by many while on the team because they were considered “failures” by some. Because they couldn’t win a final. Yet as time passes by, we miss them more and more and wish we had a RIQUELME on the team to dictate play in midfield. We wish we had a midfielder like CAMBIASSO or a Roberto AYALA in the back.
Let’s not do the same with this generation or at the very least, let’s not do the same with the person who is keeping Argentina on the map on the international stage. As much as we want to see this team lift the World Cup trophy, I can only imagine how the players themselves feel. Let’s not let logic cloud our judgement.
MESSI has helped lead this generation into three finals. Did we lose all of them? Yes, yes, we did. But a lot of that has to be down to bad luck. To lose one or even two finals can happen. But all three? You have to be unlucky. Having your star number 9 miss a glorious chance in a World Cup final has to be bad luck. Having one of your star players injured for all three finals has to be bad luck. Having your captain miss a penalty kick in a final has to be bad luck.
I’m writing this not only as a thank you letter or a happy birthday post to MESSI (despite knowing he will never read this) but in these very dark times as fans, for us to rally behind the team. Let’s face it, there’s no player that wants to fail, especially at a World Cup.
We don’t (and probably never will) know all of the details that are happening behind the scenes. Much is being fabricated by the media which is not uncommon in Argentina. But let’s not forget some of the things this team has been through.
Off the pitch, the AFA have appointed many managers which were not fit to coach the Argentina team. The AFA had (still have) no money. Lionel MESSI has had to pay the salary of the security staff. The team had to pay for their own flights and food during the 2016 Copa America (I know they can all afford it but it’s ridiculous from a professional standpoint). The federation has used MESSI to parade the team around the globe, making money, not thinking about the players or the development of the team.
This team went through three different coaches in one year from when Gerardo “Tata” MARTINO quit, to Edgardo BAUZA taking over to Jorge SAMPAOLI becoming the coach. All of this in one year. There’s no stability on the team. The chances of new players being properly introduced and keeping some sense of calmness cannot be easy. Yet who is shouldering most of the blame? “MESSI and his friends.”
I’ve gone a bit off topic and I’ll try to bring it back. Despite all of the turmoil, there’s been one constant on the team. One card that always comes up trump, the magic key which has bailed us out of so many situations. Lionel MESSI. If this tournament truly is the end for many of these players, MESSI included, I would hate to see them go out with some of the comments I’ve been reading lately.
As a fan, I want to say a big thank you to MESSI. Thank you for the great memories that were reaching three finals. Thank you for making me watch my team in a FIFA World Cup final. Thank you for making me dream, even if for the 110 odd minutes that this team would be able to lift the trophy. Can you imagine that? Argentina defeating Germany and lifting the World Cup trophy in Brazil of all places? Thank you for making me dream about it.
Thank you for all the assists. I remember Hernan CRESPO being frustrated and desperately wanting a goal against Serbia & Montenegro in 2006 and you come in, RIQUELME takes the quick free kick and you play a ball across the entire back line and CRESPO taps it in. Thank you for the hat trick I watched from the stadium when you put three past Brazil back in 2012 in a friendly match. Thank you and your team mates for a ridiculous 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign where you ran riot against everyone. Thank you for scoring that first penalty in the semi-finals against the Netherlands, I can only imagine the pressure you were under.
Thank you for the performance against Colombia during the 2018 qualifiers where you came back from retirement and absolute destroyed the Colombians. Thank you for the lone goal against Uruguay which got us the three points. Thank you for the hat trick against Ecuador in Quito which took us to the World Cup.
Thank you for the excitement, the goals, the dribbles and the assists. Simply put, thank you. Happy birthday to the best player in the world, the best I have ever seen and I have no doubt the best I will ever see. Happy birthday to Lionel MESSI.