Blog Lionel Messi has finally won the FIFA World Cup and can claim to be the greatest male footballer of all time

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup just became a coronation.

Football almost never delivers perfect narratives, so when it happens it’s all the more impactful.

And so it was at Lusail Stadium today, as the greatest player the game has known won its ultimate trophy in dramatic fashion.

And we can, more comfortably now, crown him the finest men’s footballer of all time.

The only asterisk that hovered over his legacy was a failure to win the biggest prize in the sport — the World Cup Trophy. That failure is now a gleaming success story.

Final stamp of greatness a long time coming

Messi took no prisoners during the 2022 World Cup.(Gertty Images: Patrick Smith/FIFA)

As the best player at perhaps the best club side the world has seen in Barcelona, he racked up goals, assists, trophies and personal plaudits.

To list his most astonishing statistics, he has nearly 800 career goals, 41 trophies and an unmatched seven Ballon d’Ors.

Messi soon established himself as the best player in a brilliant Barcelona side.(Lluis Gene: AFP)

And it was the way he did it as well.

For a player who has never shown excessive flair, he has been irresistible to watch.

Never once in his career has he performed an unnecessary step-over or backheel, yet he is an endless highlights reel of dazzling dribbles, sumptuous passes and ridiculous goals.

Despite being unrelentingly effective, he’s never been dull to watch. Quite the opposite of a robotic winning machine, he’s the player most likely to make you gasp in disbelief, or laugh out loud.

The World Cup a final flourish

Messi has been at his very best during the tournament.(AP: Thanassis Stavrakis)

There is a strong case that he didn’t need to win the World Cup to be regarded as the greatest. International football is incredibly fickle.

What if France had won the shootout instead?

What if Pelé had been born in Estonia and never won a trophy with his national side? Would that make him any less of a player?

Some of football’s most legendary names never enjoyed success with their national teams; Alfredo Di Stéfano, Johan Cruyff and George Best to name three.

Not anymore.

The slow emergence of a talisman

It took a while for Argentinians to warm to Messi.(Getty Images: Ronald Martinez)

Normally a young Argentinian talent would emerge onto the local football scene to much excitement, then star for a year or two with Boca Juniors or River Plate before the move to one of Europe’s cashed-up leagues.

In that time he would have built himself a lifelong fanbase. Somewhere in the region of 90 per cent of Argentinians say they support Boca or River.

Despite more often that not being the best player on the field when Argentina played, he came under fire back home for not reaching the same heights as he did with his club.

He was a “pecho frio” — cold hearted — one of the worst insults you can call a player in Argentinian football.

The nation cried with him when he lost the 2014 World Cup final against Germany.

He shed more tears as Argentina lost two Copa America finals in as many years.


Argentinians no longer questioned his commitment to the cause, now they surged behind him in his quest to deliver a first international trophy for the country in decades.

Eventually that came, in the toughest of circumstances, as Argentina beat Brazil, in Brazil, in the 2021 Copa America final.

As the team had grown around him, he too had grown comfortable as its talisman.

From the days of the caudillos — the feudal strongmen who ruled over provinces — to charismatic cult figures like Juan Perón and even Maradona, the lure of the “white knight” who will lead people to glory has always been magnetic in Argentina.

He was not just sublime, winning the games against Mexico, Poland, Australia, the Netherlands and Croatia with his mesmeric dribbles, scintillating goals and unbelievable assists, he was also feisty, outspoken and confident.

And his very best football is unmatched, perhaps ever.

Has there ever been a better men’s player than Messi? Probably not.(Getty: Tom Weller)

There will be some reading these words right now grumbling about how Maradona did more with less, in tougher circumstances.

Even when Maradona was in his pomp there were some who said Michel Platini was better. Or old timers who insisted the Argentinian was nothing compared to Pelé.

In Pelé’s time, some said he had none of the magic of Garrincha.

The point is, for us, for our generation, we have a player we can easily and forcibly argue is the best who ever existed.