Lionel Messi got it. 16 years after his first participation in World Cups. 36 since the last time the Argentine team had achieved it, with the leadership of Diego Armando Maradona. After having obtained all possible titles in club and national team football, individually and collectively. Only one was missing. He only wanted one. And in Lusail, he finally won the World Cup. Through the years, from his magic on the field and the strong desire he felt to win that last trophy, he was gaining the respect and even the affection of some of the greatest exponents of sport in general, and football in particular. And many of them remembered him at the time of his consecration.
Over time, the number 10 has had few more euphoric foreign fans than the former English footballer Gary Lineker. The author of the discount in that legendary match against Argentina in Mexico 1986 covered the World Cup in Qatar for the BBC together with the River Plate native Pablo Zabaletaformer teammate of La Pulga in the national team, and could not hide his joy when the selected from Lionel Scaloni confirmed the feat: “The biggest match I’ve ever seen…and the correct result. The best team won”, expressed the former Leicester City and Tottenham on their social networks, and then dedicated a message exclusively to Messi: “It has been an absolute privilege to see Lionel Messi for almost two decades. Moment after moment of captivating and jovial football, which does not give you a break. He is a gift from the soccer gods. I am delighted that he has lifted the highest prize in our sport, ”she wrote to him, closing in Spanish:“Thank you and congratulations champ”.
Lineker was not the only former player who dedicated himself to honoring Messi. Alan Shearerhistoric goalscorer of the era Premier League of English football with 260 goals, wrote in his column in The Athletic an ode to the World Cup for the Argentine and the Kylian Mbappein which he assures that “you can’t argue anymore” that the Flea is the “best there was” in the sport. The historic striker continues his note thanking both figures and teams “for giving us what they gave us, for their extraordinary refusal to be outdone and for what felt like the symmetry of a change of testimony”, and argues that, despite Mbappé’s dazzling performance, it felt “appropriate” for Messi to prevail: “I said before the match that I believed it was written in the stars that the greatest of all would end up shining, and it did, but I didn’t expect fate to challenge him and taunt him as it did.. We didn’t expect a miracle, but it came to us.”
Who also did not forget the Flea was Ronaldinhoone of his mentors during his early years at Barcelona and with whom he established a strong friendship that continues to this day. His warm relationship was reflected in the publication made by the Brazilian, also world champion in 2002 with Brazil, on his Instagram stories: “Congrats brother! You deserve it so much!”.
In a very similar vein was the message from the other great Brazilian player who forged a close friendship with Messi, Neymar. “Congratulations brother”, wrote who was eliminated in the quarterfinals in Qatar, after losing against Croatia on penalties. He also made a dedication to him the third member of the trident “MSN” of Barcelona, Luis Suarezwith whom the 10 shared a video call in the Argentine locker room, and then sent him another message of support: “Congratulations friend, you are world champion! Let them say what they want, you are and will be the best”.
The cheers were not limited to players who have been teammates with the Flea, but also to historical rivals. None was more celebratory than Toni Kroosplayer of Real Madrid and winner of Leo’s Argentina in the final of Brazil 2014, with the German team: “He deserves it. In terms of individual performances in a championship, I’ve never seen a footballer play as regularly as this guy.”, the midfielder maintained in statements to Magenta TV, and then left a curious definition to reinforce his point: “You have to keep in mind that he has never played for clubs that make me very funnysomething that proves that I mean it ”.
And although it is not a rival in the literal sense of the word, someone who has competed directly with Messi, the word of someone like Skinwhich “fights” together with the 10 to occupy the same prestigious places, takes on a lot of relevance: “Messi won his first World Cup, as his career deserved”, acknowledged the three-time world champion, whose health has deteriorated in recent weeks but remains under medical care. “Diego [Maradona] He’s probably smiling now. Congratulations, Argentina!”.
Messi also had the support of athletes who also left their mark in other sports, outside of football. One of the first to send his congratulations was none other than Roger Federerwho classified the Argentine triumph as something “sprung from a fairy tale” and did not skimp on praise on his Instagram account: “Time and time again you redefined greatness. It is a privilege to see you. Congratulations Leo and Argentina, this is special and historic”. Novak Djokovic He did not use words, but did use a strong image in his stories on the same social network to express his admiration, while Andy Murraya constant admirer of the Flea during this World Cup, asked a deep question on his Twitter account: “Is Messi the best athlete of all time? Let’s just forget about football. What a man”.
The veneration also reached basketball, where the great LeBron James acknowledged the greatness of the Flea by using a goat emoji, referring to the “greatest of all time” (“the best of all time”), and also to the world of athletics, in which Usain Bolt, owner of the world record for the 100-meter run, watched the match in the Argentine jersey and described the definition as “the best World Cup final of all.” even the boxer Canelo Alvarezaxis of the controversy after an unusual meeting with the Argentine fans after the defeat of his Mexico against the Albiceleste, greeted the champions: “Congratulations Argentina, you deserved it”, he wrote on Twitter.