Lionel Messi’s Last Dance – The Ringer

Every city has a monument: a building or a landmark, no matter where you are in the city, you can find your way home by looking at it or calling it. In Rio, it is the statue of Christ the Redeemer, looking down from Mount Corcovado; in Berlin, it’s the majestic Fernsehturm, or TV tower. In the universe, there is something that is eternally comforting in these stables.

In the life of many football players, the World Cup is a permanent place. We are going through our weeks and months, our happiness and disappointment, the World Cup is there, not more than four years, an event that we will mark the stages of our lives. We first learned about it in our youth and we still crave it from our fall to our winter. It’s probably the only thing other than the number of years we’ve lived that we can use to measure our age: I’m 43, but that’s almost as important to me. I have seen nine Nine Worlds.

As we look at the World Cup, we begin to see certain patterns that return to each tournament. There are companies that excite us at the beginning and then slowly fade away, disappearing into the ether like unexpected romances: These are the “hot fires,” like Colombia in 2014. Bad associations exist. enough to win the whole thing, but will give the winners of the World Cup their most difficult phase of the whole journey: These are the “gatekeepers,” according to the faithful team Argentina led by Jorge Sampaoli to win France in the Round of 16. in 2018. That side, which Sampaoli said will go out to play “with a knife between their teeth,” was just defeated after a thrilling duel they forced the normally problem-averse French into an all-out attack. That game, widely considered to be the best in that World Cup, saw Kylian Mbappé – who received a penalty in the first half and scored twice in the second five minutes of half – took his first flight to glory. It was also the first time that France seemed capable of becoming a real champion. Then there are other groups – say Senegal in 2002 – that turn to work with more attention than expected, and continue to be happy to do things. everything about them, if only for a little while. They are called “dark horses,” but I prefer to call them the language given by my Stadium podcast cohost Ryan Hunn: “The Divorce.”

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The most important reason of all is the “last dance.” This is when a top player – who is so important to the game and almost a monument in their own right – prepares to play their final match. Winning the World Cup is a strange and unfair thing for us to evaluate the size of a football player, because it is a way to play the right time. It means winning games, played over a month, so a person must first be lucky enough to qualify and then get a place. company surrounding them. Judging the glory of a player in the World Cup is as absurd as judging a university student at the end of a one-hour exam after five years of study.

Yet this is what Leo Messi has achieved so far, reaching a World Cup he has confirmed will be his last. With each season, he moved to the mental and spiritual heart of this American team: from his youth as a warp-speed winger to his middle career as an all-rounder for . 10 in his current incarnation as a patient, more mid-range, and playmaker. Watching Messi for America now is like realizing with a smile that you’ve reached the last glass of your best bottle of red wine: You’ve enjoyed the trip, but you’re worried you might not have please him.

The last time football felt this serious was when Zinedine Zidane announced, before the 2006 World Cup, that this tournament would be the last time he won a football field. Then we find ourselves looking at each game with a high degree of danger, knowing that the end of France will be the result for Zidane. The night before the finale, where France arrived because of its beauty, I spent an evening watching the highlights of his career on YouTube, then I went for a short trip near my yard. It’s embarrassing to share this, but thinking about it, I think I’m depressed. For years, Zidane’s game has been a source of escape, of beauty: No matter how hard my work week is, I know I can tune in on Saturday or Sunday to see him do one thing. amazing for his club or country. .

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Same goes for Messi. There have been many times over the past few years when I took a break from my desk to walk around town, and that break turned into quitting my job for 90 minutes when I was passed a local store and I saw it was Messi’s. the group is about to start. Pep Guardiola told us this time before: “Always guard Messi,” because one day we won’t be able to. I can’t see the Northern Lights in person, but watching the famous Messi on all those televisions is probably the closest I’ll ever get to that heavenly wonder: an effervescent hanging upon us, which most of us do not know. the space will be more illuminated.

As Messi prepares for his final dance, he will be doing so with a much tougher supporter than the one he has faced today, with Argentina having won the Copa América last year. the year 1993. Messi won. Some of the most famous national teams – perhaps the selection of the World Cup 2006, including Pablo Aimar, Carlos Tevez, Hernán Crespo, Javier Saviola, and Juan Román Riquelme – but no one decided. Here, he can rely on the quality of the defense of Cristian Romero, the brave and charismatic driver of Emi Martínez, the good finishing of Lautaro Martínez and Julián Álvarez, and the creative skill of Ángel Di Maria. Last but not least, he has his loyal lieutenant Rodrigo de Paul, who is first in line when Messi is physically threatened by an opposing player.

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The Copa América victory over the hosts Brazil, coming as it did at the Maracanã stadium, was a very important one for Messi, who is the player of the competition. In other words, he spoke of a head coach who was superior to Diego Maradona, the man whose history made him sad to pretend that he was more than a character – and that, in To some extent, he was released from a lot of pressure. It was the first tournament when the power shifted from Messi carrying the team to the team carrying Messi. Surprised in the first rounds, he cut a tiring number at the end of the final, missing the opportunity to record the game that he will get his best. Along the way, he must draw on the strength of his teammates as before: And each, whether Martínez with his controversial penalty against Colombia or Di María with his victory against to Brazil, they met the competition. Watching him crash into the final whistle, it’s clear that Messi knows he can no longer be seen as the perennial underachiever for his country. Seeing him tear Estonia apart in a new friendly, where he scored all five goals in Argentina’s 5-0 victory, or deciding the lead of the game against Italy in the Finalissima, we can see someone who plays with more freedom in the blue-and- white shirt than before.

How he fares on the dance floor in Qatar remains to be seen, with defending champions France and Brazil perhaps the strongest contenders. There are those who believe that, in order to be considered the greatest footballer of all time, he needs to go home with a lift. However, Messi, our long-time stalwart, has found his own way through the world; and all that remains is our wonder and melancholy at his last flight.

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