Argentina‘s Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the best players ever. It’s been argued that he’s even better than Diego Maradona and therefore the hands-down best player to have ever lived. However, despite being dubbed the best player of the 2014 World Cup tournament, his performance did not help his claim to being the top of his profession.
Messi scored four goals in the World Cup, which is impressive, but all four came in the group stage, and that’s not. When the games were do-or-die, Messi lacked the gumption to produce for his team, and as such they scraped by while scoring just two goals in three knockout stage matches.
The biggest criticism about the Argentine club is that they do or die at the behest of the little maestro. Either he scores and creates the opportunities or they lose. Obviously they still managed to get by the knockout rounds, but it was strained at best. That kind of dependency can severely hinder the performance of someone, but it shouldn’t when given Messi’s quality.
Few players can carry an entire team on their back and simply ‘will’ their team to win. Maradona was one such man. Messi has been known to do it to, but this World Cup saw no such magic.
Few soccer fans out there are unaware of Maradona’s unbelievable goal in the 1986 World Cup against England. That was one example of the best player in the world dragging his team to a win, and it was on the biggest stage. Messi does not have that moment.
The little wizard is still without a World Cup, and he’s running out of time. Rumor has it that if Messi can get that cup, he’ll be the best ever. But he hasn’t shown that he can do it on the biggest stage. The Group Stages are one thing, but the knockout stages are quite another. He had plenty of opportunities against Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, but he couldn’t finish. There were times where he even uncharacteristically disappeared.
Then there’s the whole issue of the final free kick in extra time. Obviously Messi was the player to take it, but it was incredibly selfish of him to launch that at goal and not give the packed crowd in the box a chance for a header on goal and the possibility of a rebound. Not only that, but saying he launched it ‘at goal’ is overly generous, as he air-mailed the ball toward the third row of the crowd.
Messi faded for Argentina when they needed him most. He understands how much his team’s play is dependent on his own, and for him to disappear after the group stage is not at all characteristic of anyone nearing the label of “best player ever.”