Lionel Messi gave us another example of his endless brilliance on Tuesday night, as he led Argentina to the World Cup final on his final appearance at the tournament.
Messi scored the opener of their 3-0 win over Croatia from the spot, but it was his assist for their third goal, after a gliding run that evaded the best defender of this tournament, that truly summed up his legacy on the biggest stage.
🇦🇷 3-0 🇭🇷
Alvarez gets the goal, but it's the brilliant Lionel Messi who will take all the plaudits. A magical #FIFAWorldCup moment.#ARGCRO
📺Watch live on @RTE2 & @RTEplayer - https://t.co/2W5kFtUOPc
📱 Live updates - https://t.co/OkTNJUcHUp #RTEsoccer pic.twitter.com/OYCN2dTKfk
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) December 13, 2022
Messi now has a second chance to finally add a World Cup to his trophy cabinet, a feat that would see him match Argentina's other great footballing legend, Diego Maradona.
Many believe that Messi needs to win a World Cup before he can be mentioned in the same bracket as Maradona, even in Argentina.
After the game on Tuesday night, one Argentinean journalist had a heartwarming close to her interview, which summed up why Messi will remain in the hearts of his country's fans, and fans worldwide, no matter whether he adds a World Cup or not.
Lionel Messi: Argentine asked emotional interview question
The support for Argentina at this World Cup has been phenomenal, and the team have reciprocated that support with a run all the way to the final. Despite a shocking loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening game, they have turned things around, and will face either France or Morocco on Sunday night in Lusail, hoping to win a first World Cup in 36 years.
Just as he was in 2014, Lionel Messi has been crucial to Argentina's success in Qatar. With his old foe Cristiano Ronaldo faltering, this World Cup has presented a chance for Messi to confirm his status as the greatest player of this generation, and he has done so with some phenomenal performances in the twilight of his career.
Speaking to Argentinean TV after Tuesday's game, Messi was humbled by a beautiful closing statement from the interviewer. The Argentinean journalist assured Messi that, no matter the result, he will be remembered as something truly special by fans from his country.
This interview with Messi is beautiful.. pic.twitter.com/eVxJXuqJwc
— J. (@Messilizer) December 14, 2022
The interviewer's comments were:
Last thing I want to tell you - and it is not a question, but I just wanted to say: the World Cup final is coming. And, sure, we all (Argentineans) want to win the cup - I just want to tell you that there's something that no one can take from you.
That is the fact that you resonated with Argentineans, every single one, I'm being serious. There's no kid who doesn't have your team flannel, no matter if it is a fake, real, or a made up one. Truly, you made your mark in everyone's life.
That to me is beyond winning any World Cup. No one can take that from you and this is my thank you for the amount of happiness you bring to a lot of people.
I seriously hope you take these words into your heart. Because I really believe that's more important than winning a World Cup. And you already have it, so thank you captain.
Lionel Messi will no doubt be feeling the pressure in the days leading up to the World Cup final, but this interviewer's comments should put him at ease. He appeared taken aback and humbled by the journalist's remarks, which drove home the fact that he has reached hero status in his home country.
It is clear that Argentinean fans have an adulation of the PSG star, and with good reason after his heroic feats in blue and white - not only in this tournament, but down through the years.
The world will be watching on Sunday, and we'd hazard a guess that plenty of neutral fans around the world will be joining the Argentine fan base in cheering on this all-time great in his last dance at a World Cup.