There are no words to describe what Lionel Messi has been doing on the football pitches of this world for more than a decade now. At least for Barcelona. Called by many people the best club player of all time, "La Pulga" cannot boast any notable successes with the Argentine national team. Only the U-20 World Championship (2005) and the Olympic Gold Medal (2008) can be found in his trophy cabinet. Certainly, there are other players like Cryuff or Zico, who could not win trophies as national players either, however they were both the heads of legendary teams (Netherlands 1974 and Brazil 1982), who are still bringing today tears into the eyes of football romantics.
Despite Messi's partly great performances at the 2014 World Cup and the Copa Americas 2015 and 2016, the memories of those games will fade quickly as he simply has not been able to influence Argentina's game as much as Barcelona's. The miraculous dribbler has not yet managed to score in a knockout game of a World Cup. Many people will argue that a striker cannot be measured by his goals only, which, of course is true. Nevertheless, a world class player should be able to show his qualities no matter what. One of Messi's numerous qualities is that he doesn’t stop to break goal records in Barcelona. A quality that he (still) owes us (so far) in the decisive games for the Albiceleste. An important reason is the team. In Catalonia, he has playing for the Blaugrana since the age of 13 in a club which teams have the same game philosophy. In the national team, this important aspect is often changing. Even if Argentina currently has one of the the best Argentine generations ever (at least in an attacking sense) with Messi, Higuain, Di Maria, Dybala, Aguero, Icardi, Pastore, Banega and so on, a big trophy hasn’t been won (yet).
The new national coach, Jorge Sampaoli, seems like a glimpse of hope. After a very short time, he imposed his game philosophy on the Albiceleste without limiting Messi's abilities. Despite a considerable playing style, the qualification for the World Cup was only difficultly achieved and the results of the friendly games weren’t satisfactory. Noticeable was that Sampaoli often fielded players, especially in defense, from the domestic Argentine league. Whether he has done it due to injuries of key players or to better impose his philosophy, remains to be seen until this year’s World Cup. This lack of defensive stability could prove fatal for the Argentines. Messi would still not have the eagerly awaited world cup title, for many a knock-out criterion in the controversial question about the best football player of all time.
One name that keeps coming up in this discussion is the one of Diego Armando Maradona. He has exactly fulfilled that criterion and made himself worldwide immortal with his performances in the summer of 1986 in Mexico. As a player he was (mostly) irresistibly good, as a coach he has rather been the opposite, at least at first sight. Since the 1970s, there has been no coach in the Argentine national team that has collected more than Maradona’s 2.25 points per game. The former world-class player is certainly not a great tactician, which has shown the 4-0 defeat at the 2010 World Cup against Germany. But he is still, especially for many Argentine national players, a role model (of course only on the field). Furthermore, El Pibe de Oro is probably the only person in the world to have more pressure on his shoulders when hired as a national coach than the Messi(as). This would be another important reason to relieve Messi's inhumane burden, which he is especially feeling from his Argentinian homeland. As a coach, known for his emotionality, Maradona would probably field only the best players regardless of the formation, which is perfectly legitimate as long as it is successful. However, a debacle like the World Cup quarter final in South Africa against Germany should not be repeated. Therefore, Maradona would need a calm assistant coach next to him, someone he respects and with whom he gets along. A good choice would certainly be Jorge Valdano. The former Real Madrid striker was one of the few Argentine players who earned their money in Europe during the 1986 FIFA World Cup. Later he was coach and sports director at the Spanish record champion, as well as author and business consultant, which would make him a good analysing assistant coach, the perfect counterpart to the eccentric Maradona. In any case, it would be one of the most beautiful stories ever, stories only football can write: Maradona, one of Messi's toughest competitors concerning the GOAT-question, allows his younger compatriot to win the world title and thus completes the missing piece of the puzzle in the outrageous career of the little flea.
As a neutral football fan you have to admit that Lionel Messi deserves to win the World Cup. Whether it becomes reality remains to be seen. If not, it does not belittle his constant splendid performances and we knew theoretically what would have been the reasons...