As Lionel Messi turns 26, and from a Peter-Panish forever child he becomes, in front of out eyes, an actual adult, once again the only thing missing from his incredible long list of achievements pops to mind – winning the World Cup with Argentina, so the argument over the best footballer of all time might finally be decided.
The 2013-2014 season is going to be a big one. Each one is, but after two years of failing to win the Champions League, the pressure will be on Barcelona to reunite with the title that has gone to them three times from 2006 to 2011. The arrival of Neymar is the kind of signing that helps keep local dominance and sell jerseys, not change or fix the problems the team had against Bayern Munich and others over the last couple of seasons.
His co-existence with Neymar is another test and challenge that will closely be examined. Barcelona have been over-reliant on Messi’s scoring ability over the last couple of seasons (while he netted 96 league goals), but the story may have another side to it, that presents Messi in a less than positive light.
The deterioration in the standing of David Villa at the club might point to the fact that Messi is a lot more powerful within the Barcelona halls than it may look like. Being short of height and having a boyish look might hide a much more serious and different person. Can it be that co-existing with Messi on the pitch means giving up on a lot more than some strikers are willing to?
On the other hand, David Villa did have a very successful debut season with Barcelona, so that theory doesn’t exactly hold up, and it probably has to do more with Villa simply not being the striker he was from before the injury.
But in a more historic sense, next season, or next summer, will be about the World Cup in Brazil, and how Messi and Argentina preform. It’ll be the third time Lionel Messi arrives with Argentina to the world cup. In 2006, when the team was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Germany, he was only 19, and not an integral part of the squad. In 2010, the outcome was the same – same team, same stage, while Messi didn’t score a single goal during the tournament, despite playing well through the first four matches.
Messi’s role with the national team has changed, especially after a disappointing 2011 Copa America. After being used mostly as a no.10, playing behind two strikers, he has become a lot more attacking in nature, hence the rise in his goalscoring for the national team (more than half of his goals have come over the last couple of years). Obviously, the expectations of him will be greater than ever.
People need numbers in order to make arguments and comparisons, even though soccer is the least number-based sport in the world. Messi has four La Liga titles in the last five seasons; two Champions League titles since 2009; four Ballon d’Or awards; 3 European Golden Shoe awards, and a lot, lot more. And yet the name of Maradona will always be somewhat of a bane unless the does what Diego did in 1986, and lead Argentina to a World Cup title.
The chances? Argentina will probably aligned as one of the favorites. Spain should be the number one team to look out for, with Brazil, as the hosts, coming in second. Argentina? They have as good of a shot as any to come out as winners, hoping their form for most of the South American qualifiers (1st in the group at the moment) means their wait of nearly 30 years might be over, and Messi will be able to get the last piece of silverware that usually is necessary for the G.O.A.T deceleration, although the shift of power from international to club football should make that necessity redundant.