Lionel Messi

Like the proverbial diamond in the dirt, unearthed and refined, Lionel Messi’s rise to stardom could no longer have come any sooner for Argentina.

The South American nation has never shied away from producing world class stars but, for some time it seemed their production facility was running aground. The fears were quite understandable, as Diego Armando Maradona remained the only “iconic and outstanding” Argentine player to have ever come out of his nation’s football production line captivating the world with his talent which won him millions of fans over.

But in Messi, Argentina’s wait for a new star ended.

He was the long awaited football “Messiah” the Argentines had waited for, for many years. And a proof of his greatness is not hidden; a six years old signing his first football contract on a napkin for Barcelona sums up the talent called “Messi.”

His contract with the La liga giant is even more interesting why? Young Messi had health issues. An hormonal deficiency that affected his growth. Hence, Barcelona decided to step in by offering him hormonal therapy in Spain to correct the problem and in return secured his signature.

And many years after, Lionel Messi has not only rewarded Barcelona for keeping faith in him but has also put his country on the spotlight again.

At Barcelona, Messi has gone beyond a blaugrana player. He is seen as folklore of some sort even though he’s still playing.

His record breaking feats, individual awards and trophies filled cabinet for the Catalan club can make any player go green with envy.

But the “rich also cry.” Despite his heroics with Barcelona, Messi has failed to replicate these feats with the “Albiceleste”, Argentine senior national team- A problem that has got me thinking if the Argentine star is not under a curse or spell?

Having won everything “winnable” and broken every record “breakable” in the Blaugrana shirt, cup glory in an Albiceleste shirt continues to elude him.

At the just concluded Copa America Messi reached a centenary appearance for Argentina with nothing to show for it than an “Empty trophy cabinet”.

According to Yinka Adebayo, a sports journalist, he jokingly stated that the Argentine is under a spell.

“He has won everything with Barca and yet he struggles to replicate such feat with Argentina.

“We often defended him on his shortcomings for Argentina by saying the players around him are not on the same level with those he plays with in Barcelona.

“But I beg to disagree. The Argentine team is a star-studded one so, what is the problem? Maybe he should go for spiritual cleansing,” he joked.

Diego Maradona, a football icon has not hidden his criticism on Messi and his national team performance. The Napoli legend insisted that the so-called heir to his throne is unworthy of such until he takes Argentina to the zenith of football by winning trophies in major international competitions for the team. A dream shattered by the Chileans at the just concluded COPA America.

Dosu Joseph, an ex- International disagreed with the Argentine legend.

“Messi still remains the best footballer in the world. It is clear for all to see that the Argentine is a bundle of talent.

“The mere fact he hasn’t won anything for Argentina at the senior level does not mean he should be written off,” he stated.

Present coach of shooting stars, Coach Gbenga Ogunbote also shared the same view as Dosu’s.

According to him, Maradona was entitled to have an opinion and it shouldn’t be used as the benchmark for rating Messi.

“Maradona can say whatever he likes about Messi and his failure to win a trophy for Argentina. The fact still remains that Messi is truly a legend in football.

“We can’t rubbish the young man’s achievement for both Barca and his individual reputation.

He went further,” Who casted a spell on Messi? He is not the first player to go through such trying moments for a national team so why, the brouhaha”, he quipped.

The Oluyole coach is right.  Argentina’s failure to lift a trophy for 22 years should not be heaped at the Barcelona’s star door-step. Albiceleste trophy drought had long been there prior to Messi’s arrival on the scene hence, making a scape goat out of the 27year old seems harsh.

Having played three finals- two Copa defeats to Uruguay in 2011 followed by the recent loss to Chile, and World cup heartbreak to Germany- it was evident that the timing and the level of opposition Argentina encountered were slightly ahead of an Albiceleste headlined by Messi.

Rewind to 2011, when Argentina hosted the tournament. They could have won the trophy on home soil but met a recalcitrant and  formidable Uruguay led by Luis Suarez, an in form Edison Cavani at Napoli and the ever-green Diego Forlan. The trio, were quite a force to reckon with and they duly halted Messi’s dream by emerging victorious in a penalty shoot-out.

While at the World cup finals in Brazil, they lost to a better, organized and fluid Germany in extra time. Prior to the defeat, Argentina though, tipped to go far didn’t really impress but were good at grinding out results. Their nervy 3-2 victory over Switzerland in the second round and their narrow one nil win over Belgium in the quarters summed up their not-to-impressive journey towards the final against Germany.

And at Chile, their Copa dream was dashed by the host nation’s team, La Roja.

The Chileans were far the better side in the competition as they scored more goals and were in top condition compared to Messi led Argentina who were slow in racing out of the bloc. While Argentina labored to secure narrow wins on their way to the finals, the Chileans were merciless in front of goals and more convincing in their wins.

Hence their hard-work reflected on the pitch as they scored their penalty kicks while Albiceleste with the exception of Messi squandered theirs’.

In short, it seems not only Messi but the entire Argentine team is under a spell judging from recent results. Gerrard Martino’s decision to put Tevez on the bench for Higuian shows how the ill-luck pervades the whole Albiceleste set up.

Is there any redemption for Messi?

“He is just 28. He can still break the jinx.

“We have seen the likes of Pirlo, Maldini play beyond our expectation. So, barring injury, Messi can still make it,” Dosu Joseph opined.

Truly, only time will tell if Messi can end his trophy drought at international level with Argentina.

His desolate figure after the Copa defeat to Chile sums up his frustration. In a career where time and age has the “last laugh’, Messi will be hoping and praying he turns the tide as soon as possible or else he might end up not fulfilling his dreams in Argentine colours.


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