And when you look at what Messi has achieved whilst being the most criticized player in the world, it’s mind-boggling. Six La Ligas, three Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups, Olympic Gold, Under-20 World Cup, four Ballons d’Or, three European Golden Shoes. Add to that the goalscoring records, the amount of assists, and he’s achieved more than anyone, except for the one thing that will forever define him: the World Cup.
The seven games in the midst of hundreds will define him.
When he hangs up his boots one day, or maybe only decades later, we’ll really understand. We’ll live decades, realizing that no one quite matches what he did. Then we’ll look at the Youtube clips and documentaries made of him, and say “goodness, he was amazing. He scored more than anyone. He won more than anyone.” And maybe then the collective will realize that they won’t see a greater player in their lifetime.
For what he has done in an era that is organized, largely defensive and more tactical than perhaps in the decades before, Messi is quite possibly the greatest player of all times. But because he failed to replicate a myth, he might never get the place in history that he deserves. And that’s simply unfair, but shouldn’t stop us from celebrating his greatness today.