Messi, the man who needs no introduction, has won every single club title and individual awards that he could possibly get his hands on. But when it comes down to International level, he has nothing to show for. Some say he should be stripped of his captain’s armband. But is all of this really fair?
Let me first mention that I believe that everything that is being hurled towards the player is completely unacceptable. The abuse that Argentinian fans give to their captain is outrageous and anyone who says that Messi cannot be considered the best of all time – due to his lack of silverware internationally – is being completely unreasonable. However, the topic regarding Lionel Messi’s international career must be discussed, following another failed bid for a international silverware.
Messi in Blue and White
Two finals for Argentina – the World Cup Final and Copa America Final – and failure to score more than a single goal cost them in both finals. But it just doesn’t make sense, Argentina’s attack is possibly one of the best, if not THE best in the world, individually. With Leo Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Carlos Tevez, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain. There is other team in the world that could boast such a star studded front line.
However, “with great power comes great responsibility” and Argentina’s coaching staff can’t seem to get that right. They need to look at the reasons why the results just aren’t coming and find a solution. Tata Martino, former Barcelona coach, was brought in to find that solution, to find that missing something and to bring a new element to the team.
It looked as though they found the secret ingredient after running riot versus Paraguay in the Copa America Semi-Final, beating them by six goals to nil. The ‘Flea’, as Messi is known in Argentina, failed to register a goal but he managed to get a hat-trick of assists. Winning 6-0 in a Semi-Final usually means you are on the right track and heading into the final with a comfortable win in the bag. But scoring just a single goal in both finals, which didn’t occur during open play, clearly shows that they are far from finding their ‘secret ingredient’.
The Messi that plays week-in and week-out for Barcelona is not the same Messi that pitches up for training with the Albiceleste. Simply put, he doesn’t have the same talent around him. Players like Iniesta, Xavi and co. have been his backbone. Now that Suarez, Neymar and Rakitic have come in, Messi has found himself a new backbone. He links with these players because they have an emotional bond too. He has fun whenever he plays for Barça, among his friends and plays as though he were in his backyard with a couple of mates trying to see who can score the most goals.
But he hasn’t found that link with any of the Argentinian players. Other than Mascherano, Aguero and Zabaleta, he doesn’t have much of a connection with anyone else. Pastore has been hailed as Argentina’s Iniesta and his link up play with Messi has been a joy to watch. Something is there, they just need to build on that something.
A key decision; giving the captains’ armband to Messi, was an impulsive one. It was a cheap way for the Argentine coach to try and get the best out of Messi in the World Cup. Thinking that it would give him that extra feeling of responsibility. It worked to a certain point, but Messi isn’t the type to give inspirational speeches nor is he the type to voice himself. He leads through his play and if his play is poor, it affects the rest of the team.
Most say that Javier Mascherano should be donning the armband because of his natural leadership skills. He portrays the type of man you go to war with and die for (especially on the pitch). This was proven in the World Cup Final. It was extra time and the Argentine camp was huddled up with Mascherano looking like he was giving the most inspiring speech and at the edge of the huddle, you see Messi walking around, looking like a lost sheep.
Stripping away his Captaincy wouldn’t help Argentina at all because Messi would feel unwanted and that his country doesn’t back him as their savior anymore. That would only lead to him to change his mind about playing for his country and essentially, that would mean giving up their best player.
However; give him the love and care that he deserves and he will gift you with his powers. He will score you goals with his “left foot that is no less than a human strap of Ares”. And when you need out of this world, he will give you out of this Universe.