A beacon of hope, the heir to the legendary Maradona, and a Messiah to the legend’s fans. Lionel Messi, the poster boy of La Albiceleste has been at the forefront of the Argentine national football team for well over a decade.
October 16, 2004 marked Messi’s debut with Barcelona, and since then built a legacy as one of the biggest stars in La Liga, the world, and history. In his seventeen year career with the Spanish giants, Messi accumulated six Ballon D’or, ten Liga titles, four Copa del Rey titles, and four UEFA Champions Leagues.
Barcelona’s talisman made his Argentine World Cup debut, back in 2006, without looking back. While he wasn’t the most impactful player of the tournament, it gave the world a taste of what to expect from Messi.
It was anticipated that Messi’s club success would reflect upon international duty. But it never did. His 2010 World Cup campaign saw him to be ineffective, as Messi’s squad was manhandled 0-4, by a merciless German team. In 2014, Messi reached the Final, against Germany. Once again, the German’s got the last laugh. Four years later, Croatia and France completely dismantled Argentina, in the Group Stage and Round of 16, respectively.
The Copa America was no different. Argentina reached the 2007, 2015, and 2016 Finals, to compete against Brazil and Chile for the gold. The white and blue morphed into a turnstile, for Brazil’s 3-0 win, and Chile was flawless in penalty shootout wins. Messi did not score in any of those meetings.
This can possibly be Messi’s final chance at international gold and redemption. But it won’t be easy. A former club compatriot awaits him.
Current Paris-Saint Germain superstar, Neymar, former teammate to Messi, is on the same quest.
At 29 years old, still at the prime of his career, Neymar’s best years are still ahead of him. Like Messi, Neymar is also the image and likeness of his nation, Brazil. He is the promised child, to expand Brazil’s trophy case. Brazil already is the reigning champion. This is for a two-peat, which hasn’t been accomplished since 2007 by Brazil, against Argentina.
How much sweeter would it be, for Neymar, to become a national hero. The man to defeat a bitter rival country and arguably the best player in the world. Neymar already has international gold to his name, having won the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013, but missed the 2019 Copa America, due to injury. This is Neymar’s chance to transcend to the levels of Brazilian legends Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Pele.
Will Neymar darken the White and Sky Blue, or can Messi dine on the Little Canary?