In my opinion, Messi is the greatest of all time in the sport of soccer. I watched him as a fan for basically as long as I have been a fan of the sport. When I was a kid and heard all these debates about Messi vs Maradona I already had an opinion. Messi was the greatest. Of course, that was a biased opinion because I have been able to watch Messi for years but I am obviously too young to see Maradona play.
In the CNN article Stepping out of Maradona’s shadow. How Lionel Messi won over the hearts of all of Argentina really brought out the debate. Maradona was and still is a national hero for the country of Argentina. He is an icon nearly as important as God to many Argentinians. And that was something the article mentioned that Messi may have lacked.
Maradona was a player with character. He was quite known for his temperament and his obsession with the sport. This is something that a lot of Argentinians thought Messi was lacking. Messi was rather quiet when compared to his counterpart and because of that many Argentinians mistakenly believed that he didn’t care for the national team.
This narrative I feel came to be because Messi joined F.C. Barcelona in his early teen years. He left the country of Argentina and played in Spain longer than he had lived in Argentina. Many believed that he preferred Spain over his country of birth, This frustration towards Messi continued as Messi lost three consecutive titles in a row with the national team.
“How could Messi be considered the greatest of all time if he can’t win the World Cup as Maradona did?” I remember seeing a lot of posts like that on Social Media when Argentina lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final. “Maradona wouldn’t have choked” or “Messi can’t perform in big games for Argentina”. I remember hearing this narrative a lot from even Argentinians themselves.
It just seemed like Messi could never get out of Maradona’s shadow. However, that narrative may not be true. After another final loss in 2016, Messi announced his retirement from the national team. Instead of Argentinians giving him the middle finger, most came forward to support the player. So many in fact, that some of those sending him these messages of support even end up being in the team that eventually won the 2022 World Cup. Argentina seemed to be in full support of their player.
In 2020, the country of Argentina was in mourning as their national hero Maradona passed away. It was a great shock to the world as a whole to see one of the greatest ever athletes gone.
You could already see visions of a more outspoken Messi when he returned from retirement but after Maradona passed away it is as if Maradona’s spirit was motivating Messi. Messi became a completely different person. He was already a fantastic player but with a new outspoken attitude, he became a worthy captain for the national team and was finally able to touch an international trophy with the Copa America in 2021. Following that, Messi lifted the World Cup that hadn’t been won by their country since Maradona himself played.
Maybe to some Messi will still never step out of Maradona’s shadow. But to others, he has already achieved that and made a name for himself instead. All in all, Messi may have finally reached the level of Maradona in the hearts of millions of Argentinians and people worldwide.