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There is no asterisk in Lionel Messi’s career. His impressive resume now includes a World Cup title.

Lionel Messi wins the only title that had eluded him and demonstrates why he is the greatest player of all time by leading Argentina past France in a thrilling World Cup final.

Lionel Messi smiled as his teammates and Argentina fans sobbed around him.

This was not a happy ending. Such things do not exist, and if they did, the World Cup final would not have gone into extra time, let alone a penalty shootout, which would have resulted in a more precarious, and unpredictable, outcome.

But it was as close as it gets.

Messi finally won the only title that had eluded him in his final World Cup game, with his older two sons at an age where they can appreciate what they saw, while providing an emphatic answer to those who had questioned whether he is the best to ever play the game.

The trophy in his hands, as bright as his smile, demonstrates this.

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“He’s the best in history, without a doubt, and he proved it in the game. He’s been doing it throughout the tournament “Rodrigo De Paul spoke to Argentina’s TyC Sports after Messi and Argentina defeated defending champion France in a penalty shootout in the World Cup final on Sunday.

‘Totally insane’

The final was epic, an instant classic that displayed the beautiful game in all its thrilling and nerve-wracking glory. “The match was completely insane,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.

Argentina was 10 minutes away from defeating a sluggish France after first-half goals from Messi and Angel Di Maria when Kylian Mbappe single-handedly revived the defending champions. He scored two goals in 90 seconds to force overtime.

After Messi scored on a rebound to put Argentina back in front in the 108th minute, Mbappe tied it up again 10 minutes later.

This would force the game into a penalty shootout, with France missing two of its first four shots. With Messi, Paulo Dybala, and Leandro Paredes all making theirs, and Messi slow-rolling his as if to give all those who doubted his greatness a few extra seconds to absorb it, it came down to Gonzalo Montiel, whose handball in extra time had given France a last-ditch chance.

Montiel buried his shot, and Messi burst out laughing for the rest of the night.

He saluted Argentina’s fans, who had transformed Doha into a Buenos Aires suburb for the entire month, and led the Albiceleste dance line. He hugged sons Thiago and Mateo, who was so upset by Argentina’s upset loss to Saudi Arabia in their group-stage opener a million years ago that he left the stadium crying.

Rather than being overcome, relieved, or any of the other emotions that come with lifting a weight, Messi simply looked elated. As if he’d known what the rest of the world could only hope for all along.

His career would have no asterisks. His impressive resume includes a World Cup victory.

“We were destined to be world champions,” Messi said after winning Man of the Match.

Having fun with lightness and joy

This is the Albiceleste’s third World Cup title, and the first since Diego Maradona’s career-defining performance in 1986. Argentina’s sense of destiny in Qatar is heightened by the fact that this is the first World Cup since Maradona’s death in 2020.

This World Cup, however, is and has always been about Messi.

Messi has long been regarded as the best player of his generation, having won seven Ballon d’Or awards and four Champions League titles. His iconic No. 10 jersey – the light blue-and-white-striped Argentina version, in particular – is found in every corner of the globe, extending the reach and appeal of this beautiful game.

Despite all of his accolades, he lacked the one that would proclaim his greatness to fans and non-fans alike.

Pele, Maradona, Beckenbauer, Ronaldo (the original, not the later, inferior version), and Zidane were all World Cup champions. Messi had only made it to the World Cup final once in his previous four appearances, and Argentina had lost that one to Germany in 2014.

Messi stated before the tournament that this would “certainly” be his final World Cup, a statement he has repeated several times in the last month. Sending him out as a champion became a motivator for him and his Argentina teammates.

“The truth is that there is some anxiety, as if to say, ‘Well, we’re here, what’s going to happen? ‘This is my last one, how’s it going?'” Messi stated this in an interview with ESPN prior to the start of the World Cup.

“On the one hand, I can’t wait for it to arrive, but I also want it to go well.”

He made certain of it.

Unlike in previous tournaments, when Messi appeared to carry the weight of Argentina, pressing too hard and attempting to do too much, he played with lightness and joy in this World Cup.

With a ruthless streak to boot.

Messi was named the tournament’s best player and received the Golden Ball. He had seven goals, second only to Mbappe’s eight, and three assists. He scored the first goal in the group stage and every game in the knockout round.

With his help, the young teammates who had grown up idolising him blossomed, and the older ones played with renewed vigour. Even when Argentina faltered, whether against Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, or France in the quarterfinals, they simply regrouped behind Messi and surged ahead.

This quest for the World Cup was not a burden. It was an honour to play for each other and their fans.

“It’s an honour for us to coach him and his teammates,” Scaloni said. “Everything he sends to his teammates is unparalleled, and I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s a player who goes above and beyond for his teammates.”

He’s now brought them a World Cup victory.

When he went to collect his Golden Ball, Messi snuck a kiss on the Jules Rimet trophy. When it was time to collect the prize he truly desired, he rubbed his hands in delight, looking like a child about to be let loose on his Christmas presents.

He walked slowly in front of his bouncing teammates, lovingly cradling the trophy, before stopping in the centre of the group and holding the trophy high in the air. Cheers rang out from the Middle East to South America and beyond from Lusail Stadium.

Messi and thousands of his closest friends celebrated his victory for the next hour. He and his teammates received new jerseys with a gleaming new third star. Fans chanted his name as his teammates carried him around the field on their shoulders.

It was a celebration of the World Cup victory as well as Messi’s majesty. His legacy is complete, and his greatness is unrivalled.

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