Having dragged Argentina almost single-handedly to Russia, Lionel Messi is gearing up for another crack at international honours with La Albiceleste. The Barcelona star’s presence alone puts Argentina among many people’s favourites for the World Cup but for those that watched the stumbling qualification process that looks like a long shot.
Messi will carry the burden of a nation after losing to Germany in the final four years ago and despite Argentina’s problems it could be a last chance to lift the trophy that for many would cement his place as the greatest of all-time.
Chopping and changing during qualification took its toll, Jorge Sampaoli is yet to find his ideal starting eleven and there remain big decisions to make regarding the squad but while Messi doesn’t necessarily think Argentina must lift the famous trophy in Moscow, La Albiceleste must be contenders.
“A good World Cup, would be to in the last four, to be one of the best four. The least Argentina deserves is to be there because of its history,” Messi explained to TyC Sports.
“It took a great deal for us just to reach this moment, but I think we have to be there again.”
That same history that Messi speaks of brings with it expectation and the Argentinian public will be demanding exactly the same success.
“We don’t have an obligation to anyone.
“We want to win more than anyone after going to three finals and not winning any of them.
“This is a weight that we carry ourselves and want to overcome, a desire of all of us who have been in the national team this last decade.”
Messi knows all too well what it is like to be in the firing line of Argentina’s demanding public and after losing a second consecutive Copa América final, the 30-year-old famously retired from international duty, only to be swiftly persuaded otherwise.
“If we do not win the World Cup, I will continue in the national team,” Messi stated.
“After saying that [retiring after the Copa América] I thought it was not the right thing to do, it would be giving the wrong message to all the youth and all the people who fight for their dreams. Keep trying and keep fighting for what you want.”
Despite lifting every title possible with Barcelona and being awarded the Ballon d’Or on five occasions, for some Messi needs a World Cup winners medal in his cabinet to be considered the greatest of all-time. Russia could be the Argentina captain’s last opportunity, certainly while he is at his peak.
“I’m not interested in being the best of all-time. Every time I start a year I try to improve personally, win everything, leave everything on the pitch every time I go out, give it all for my teammates and for me.
It does not change anything to be the best of all-time.”
“I always want to improve myself and I do not compete with anyone, because I do not play to be the best of all-time but to improve myself year after year and keep winning.
“The more titles you win at the end, the better. And, obviously, winning with the national team would be the best because it was not given to us.”
he’s right, last four world cups were amazing, i hope this year in russia we will watch good games aswell. cant wait
I will be in Spain on vacation to watch the World Cup. I wish Messi and the Albiceleste success. I do not recall the groups, but if possible, a Spain v Argentina final would be very satisfying.