Lionel Messi is generally regarded as the best soccer play in the world, a status solidified with his winning the World Soccer Player of the Year award in 2009. He’s beloved in Spain, where he has lived for half of his life and repeatedly triumphed with his club team, Barcelona. However, his roots and his World Cup allegiances lay with Argentina, and in that country, sentiment towards the superstar is lukewarm at best.
Why Doesn’t Argentina Love Lionel Messi?
As reported by S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated, Messi, at 22 years old and with seemingly the entire word at his fingertips (or the toes of his amazingly quick feet, perhaps), still hasn’t won over Argentina. Many in Argentina feel perhaps spurned by Messi, that as a child he left to play and live in Spain, and has remained there ever since.
Taken a step further, many believe he plays and behaves more like a Spaniard then an Argentinean, and feels more satisfaction playing for his Spanish club Barcelona than the national team for Argentina. There’s also a sense that Messi has not been able to play at his best for the national team, reserving the absolute culmination of his talent, once again, for Barcelona and not Argentina.
Then there’s Diego Maradona, one of the best footballers of all time, winner and Hand of God king of the 1986 World Cup, enigmatic, ruled by impulse, and if not completely insane, then at least amusingly off-kilter. Not only does Messi have to contend with Maradona’s legacy as a player – their styles, their status and their diminutive nature – but Maradona kept himself in the equation as he surprisingly grabbed the managerial position for the national team.
Why Argentina Needs to Embrace Messi Now
If you’ve watched Messi play for Barcelona, then you’ve seen a joyous, amazingly talented player, unleashed. On the national team, it’s clearly not the same person. You can argue which came first, but it seems apparent that without being embraced and supported, Messi is overloaded unduly with pressure.
To say that Messi hasn’t succeeded with the national team is bogus. The world’s best player is only 22 years old, perhaps only even breaching what is to come in term’s of his playmaking and skill. In 2005 he helped win the U-20 FIFA World Cup, and in 2008 he helped Argentina pick up a Gold medal at the Olympics. In winning the U-20 championship, he was named as the Player of the Tournament.
The fact is that when used properly, and not purposely or subconsciously restrained by the egomaniacal Maradona, Messi has largely excelled. This is a big-time player in all situations. He has won 4 La Liga titles, 2 Champions League titles and the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup with Barcelona. The individual accolades, even at his young age, form a list too long to even bother counting off.
What Messi Needs to Do
It seems apparent that Messi will never capture the wholehearted good will and support of Argentina until he wins a World Cup. If Argentina fails to do so in 2010, the inexperienced, untactful manager Maradona will still be beloved. He’s the champion, the best, the crazy uncle that you can’t help but laugh at even when he messes up. But Messi will be seen as failing for his home country before merrily going back to his European lifestyle.
Lionel Messi Leads Unpredictable Argentina into 2010 World Cup by S.L. Price
World cup television coverage and game broadcastsFIFA.Com