“They tell me that all men are equal in the eyes of god but this man seriously makes you think about those words.”
One cannot disagree but revel in admiration at football commentator Ray Hudson’s description of Lionel Messi’s genius as a footballer. Hudson is one of those blessed few who had the opportunity to witness the ‘football god’ from such close quarters many a time.
However, Messi’s reach extends beyond the four corners of a football field as suggested by the 371 million followers he has on Instagram. The staggering numbers are merely a display of the influence the Argentine has had upon the people due to his achievements in football.
Though numbers alone are not enough to describe a man many fondly call 'La Pulga'.
With a record-seven Ballon d'Or awards and many more titles to his name, Messi has all the numbers to be called one of the greatest football has produced.
But it's the story of a boy from Rosario, Argentina, who battled his own physical limitations and went on to win the highest of accolades that inspired many to follow the Argentine superstar.
Messi’s silky-smooth dribbling, finishing abilities and playing style has often led to a section of football fans calling him the ‘GOAT’ (greatest of all time). A larger-than-life figure, Messi has endorsed numerous brands over the years, the latest of them being education technology major, Byju's.
The Indian company on Friday, 4 November named Messi as their first global brand ambassador of its social impact arm, 'Education For All'.
At 35, people could argue that Messi has reached the fag end of his career but that has not stopped leading companies from approaching the Argentine to endorse their respective brands, just like Byjus did.
Earlier this year, Byjus created history by becoming the official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar – what could possibly be Messi’s final appearance in a major international tournament.
The Argentine superstar had announced last month that the World Cup in Qatar would certainly be his last.
“It’s my last World Cup, surely. I feel good physically, I was able to do a very good pre-season this year, which I couldn’t do last year. It was essential to get to where I am, with a good state of mind and a lot of hope,” Messi had said while speaking with ESPN Argentina.
The FIFA World Cup is the only trophy that is missing from the Argentine’s cabinet that has a Copa America title (2021), Olympic gold (2008) and a club-record 35 trophies, including 10 La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions Leagues among many others.
Messi, who will appear in his fifth and final World Cup at Qatar made his international debut for Argentina in 2005 as a 17-year-old. Since then, he has featured 164 times for the Albiceleste and is their all-time record scorer with 90 goals.
Following a last-16 disappointing exit in the Russia World Cup four years back, Argentina led by captain Messi will arrive in Qatar as one of the favourites after an unbeaten run of 35 matches.
The team under head coach Lionel Scaloni looks well-oiled and have been in top form since their Copa America triumph last year. They also had an excellent World Cup qualifying campaign in which they finished second behind Brazil in the table.
Argentina are placed alongside Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland in Group C and are considered to be strong favorites to qualify for the knockout phases. The Albiceleste will once again rely heavily on Messi when they land in Qatar as he has been the architect of many of their recent victories.
After a difficult first season following his transfer from Barcelona, Messi has returned to his best, scoring 12 goals and assisting 14 times from 18 matches across all competitions for Ligue 1 outfit PSG this season.
Argentina would be hopeful that their talismanic skipper continues his good form and would end their 36-year long wait for the coveted World Cup trophy.
The World Cup in Qatar will be Messi’s last shot at winning the prized trophy now that he has announced it will be his final appearance. The closest he came to winning it was eight years ago in Brazil where Argentina reached the final but lost to eventual champions Germany.
To lay his hands on the elusive World Cup trophy would definitely be a daunting task but not impossible. If it were to happen so, there wouldn’t be a better ending in football for a very long time to come.
Not just for Messi, but for Argentina and football fans across the globe, it would be an adieu that will transcend the test of time.