Every city has a monument to which it refers: a building or landmark that, wherever you are in the town, you can find your home just by looking or touching it. In Rio, there is a statue of Christ the Redeemer, which looks down from Mount Corcovado; in Berlin, the royal Fernsehturm or TV Tower. In an increasingly dark universe, something about these fixed points is always comforting.
In the existence of many football fans, the World Cup is such a definite point. As we travel through our weeks and months, our joys and our disappointments, the World Cup is always just there, never more than four years, an event that we mark the steps of our lives. We first learn it in our youth and we still miss it well through our autumns and winters. That is perhaps something else, apart from the number of years we have lived, that we can measure our age: I am 43, but it is almost the limit for me that I have witnessed nine World Cups.
As we watch the World Cup, we begin to notice certain patterns that recur in each tournament. There are parts that excite us at the beginning and gradually end, they fade into the air like romances that were not intended at all: These are “summer flames”, like Columbia in 2014. The parts are not good. it is enough to win the whole thing, but the event will give the winners of the World Cup the hardest stage of the whole journey: These are the “goalkeepers”, as they are the soft team of Argentina by Jorge Sampaoli that France had to overcome in the Round of 16. 2018. In that part, which Sampaoli said he would leave “with a knife between his teeth”, they were defeated only after an exhilarating duel in which they usually risk to repulse France in every attack. That match, by far the best watched in that World Cup, saw Kylian Mbappé, who earned a first-half penalty and scored twice in a five-minute half, take his first leap to greatness. I also saw France for the first time as if they could really be champions. Then there are other teams, say, Senegal in 2002, which come into play far more quickly than expected, and in a youthful way they do everything around them, if only for a while. They commonly call them black horses, but I prefer to call them my speech Stadium podcast cohost Ryan Hunn: “Wedding Crashers.”
The surest form of all, however, is “the last dance.” This is when an elite player — who is so prominent in the game that it’s almost a monument in his own right — prepares to play his final tournament. Winning the World Cup is a strange and perhaps even unfair measure by which we judge greatness, since it is a road where chance plays an enormous role. It means prevailing in a series of games, worked out for a month, for which everyone must first be lucky enough to be fully fit and then have a team around them that complements them in some way. Judging the greatness of a great player by the World Cup is as absurd as judging a university student on the result of one hour of one hour after five years of study.
However, this point is reached by Leo Messi, who has reached the World Cup, which he confirmed will be the last. Each time he moved to the military heart, both military and spiritual, of this Argentina: from the first years as a thread to the middle career as no action at all. 10 to its current incarnation as more patient, more central, and more withdrawn. Messi’s watch for Argentina is now a little like fearing that you have already reached the last glass of the best bottle of beer: you enjoyed the trip, but you are afraid that you are not wise enough.
The last time football felt this serious was when Zinedine Zidane announced that, before the 2006 World Cup, it would be the last competition that would grace the football field. Then we found ourselves watching each game with a greater sense of danger, knowing that any defeat would end for Zidane’s France. The night before the last one, which France has achieved a lot due to its brilliance, the evening watches highlight the career on YouTube, then I went for a short walk near my flat. I’m a little embarrassed to reveal this, but I think it hurts to think about it. Over the years, Zidane’s story had become a constant source of beauty: No matter how hard the week had been, I knew I could tune in on a Saturday or Sunday to see him do at least something wonderful for his club or his country. .
The same must be said of Messi. There have been countless times over the years when I took a short break from my desk to walk through town, and just on my 90-minute commute from work, I immediately passed a local on break and saw that it was the Messiah. the team was kicking off. Pep Guardiola once told us this: “Always watch for the Messiah”, because we cannot do it one day. I’ll never be able to see the Northern Lights in person, but looking through all those television screens through the lens of Messi, it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to seeing that celestial miracle: an effervescent presence hanging over us, unknown to most of us. the void which illuminates the complex.
As Messi prepares for his final dance, he will do so with a release that is perhaps the toughest he has had for a while, since last year Argentina won the Copa América for the first time since 1993. It was Messi. a huge part of several national teams, perhaps most notably the 2006 World Cup selection, which included Paulo Aimar, Carlos Tevez, Hernán Crespo, Javier Saviola, and Juan Román Riquelme — but none of them decisive. This is based on the defensive excellence of Cristian Romero, the strong and charismatic goal saving of Emi Martínez, the excellent finishing of Lautaro Martínez and Iulián Álvarez, and the genius of Angelo Di María. Last, but not least, he has his faithful ambassador, Rodrigo de Paul, who always seems to be the first on the scene whenever Messi physically threatens an opposing player.
Copa América hosts Brazil, as it did in the iconic Maracanã stadium, twice a vital milestone for Messi, who was the player of the tournament. It meant that he was the oldest title holder even ahead of Diego Maradona, a man whose legend he was burdened to rival or in some way surpass – and it also meant that he was to some degree freed from that pressure. It was the first tournament in which the dynamic led by Messi made the team carrying Messi. Stunned in the first laps, he cut off the exhausted figure of the Extremis at the end, and fell by the chance of tightening the game which he had marked most bitterly. On the road, as never before, he had to draw from his teammates: and in detail, whether Martínez with his heroic penalty against Colombia or Di Mía with his winner against Brazil, they met the challenge. Seeing him collapse at the final whistle, it is clear that the Messiah knew that he could no longer be seen as a perennial follower for his country. Seeing him through Estonia in the recent friendly break, where he scored all five goals in a 5-0 win over Argentina, or royally deciding the direction of the game against Italy in the Final, we could feel someone in blue-and- playing more freely. white coat than ever before.
How he will fare on the dance floor in Qatar remains to be seen, with defending champions France and Brazil as perhaps the strongest challengers. However, there are those who believe that, to be considered the greatest player of his age, he should go home with the trophy. Nevertheless, the Messiah, which has been fixed for so long, has now found his way through the world; and whatever remains is terrible, and perhaps in the last flight of sorrow.