He’s the talisman and beacon of hope, for the teams where he has competed. A hero to his nation, and heir to the legendary Diego Maradona. Lionel Messi is regarded as one of the GOATs in the world of soccer. He has the titles, awards, and statistics to prove it. But the climb to the top isn’t without setbacks. The majestic career of Messi has plenty of skeletons in the closet, adding smudges to his image and likeness.
No one wants to pay taxes. It’s a universal fact. From the prospective of the Average Joe, big money makers like Messi shouldn’t have problems paying taxes. Oh how wrong we were. In 2016, it was discovered that Messi was committing tax fraud. There was speculation on a possible 21-month prison sentence.
There are many sides to the story. One of them being Messi not being familiar with tax law in Spain. Another was that he wasn’t aware of the tax fraud that was going on. In the end, Messi was found to have used tax havens in Belize and Uruguay, and shell companies in the UK and Switzerland.
No one could have imagined that this man, who appears to be flawless in character, to have committed such heinous acts. In the end, he walked out with a fine.
Underwhelming World Cup Appearances
In 1986, the world was marveled by the best player of that time, Diego Maradona. There was no player like him. His championship winning performance in the 1986 World Cup solidified that title. After what felt like an eternity of irrelevance, for Argentina, a young Messi made his debut in the 2006 World Cup. He was poised to be the future of Argentina’s national squad. While not the most impactful player, the 19 year old showed potential.
Argentina fell to European giants, Germany, ending Messi’s dream prematurely in the quarterfinals. Fast forward to 2010, and Argentina made it back to the quarterfinal, in a rematch against the Germans. Die Mannschaft was relentless, in their 4-0 dismantling of Argentina. Messi managed one last-second pity shot, but Manuel Neuer made the save.
Four years later, in the most fitting fashion, Argentina made it to the World Cup Final, against Germany. This was the opportunity to put away the demons of failure, and restore glory to the Argentine squad. This was prime Messi, who actually was a threat to Thomas Muller’s Germany. Somehow, Mario Gotze nailed the heartbreaking goal, in the closing moments of the match, to crown Germany champions. Messi was awarded as ‘Best Player’ of the tournament, but it felt more like a participation trophy.
In what could have been Messi’s redemption, after two Copa America disappointments, the 2018 World Cup was far more painful. In Group D, against Croatia, Iceland, and Nigeria, Messi only found the net once. Messi was held to zero goals by Iceland’s goalkeeper. Then Croatia shredded Argentina, with a 3-0 win. No more goals for the remainder of the tournament. Germany was absent for the knockout round, but the favorites, France, were there. The young Frenchmen crushed Argentina, 4-3. Easily Messi’s worst World Cup campaign.
Post-Copa America Retirement
Winning the Copa America is the 2nd best accomplishment, for South American teams, apart from the World Cup. How many times wasn’t Argentina a favorite to win. In the 2007 edition, Argentina made it to the final, losing 3-0 to Brazil. No blame fell on Messi, due to his age.
Yet, every tournament that followed, Messi never replicated the success he brought to Barcelona. Too much was expected from Messi, and poor coaching made those tournament appearances worse. Looking back at it now, Messi was more of a poster boy of Argentine soccer, than an actual star. Messi performed well, without a doubt, but the 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas drained fan support. In back-to-back Finals, against Chile, Messi’s abilities were neutralized by a very determined Chilean squad. In both Finals, everything came down to a penalty shootout, both won by Chile, one featured a failed shot by Messi. This dubious outcome marked three straight tournament final defeats.
The Copa America results led to Messi’s one week retirement. Sure Messi did return, not without causing drama through the world of soccer. He did not look like the man who was lighting the world on fire, with his vicious Barca goals. Messi was the centerpiece of a conversation no one wanted to happen.
Earlier this year, Messi finally ended a near three decade championship drought, as Argentina won the 2021 Copa America. Messi was the top goal scorer, and received the Best Player Award. Victory tasted sweeter, by defeating CONMEBOL rivals, defending champions, and hosts Brazil, to capture the gold.
Highlights of success make up the majority of Messi’s life, especially as Messi has just won his seventh Ballon D’ Oro. His biggest fans don’t want to be subjected to these harsh truths. This was just at the surface level. What other daunting facts can be said about Messi?