Lionel Messi emulated fellow Argentina great Diego Maradona by dragging his country to World Cup glory last month.
Lionel Messi wishes Diego Maradona had been able to hand him the World Cup trophy last month, but he has no regrets over the time it took him to lead Argentina to football’s greatest prize.
Messi inspired Argentina to their fourth World Cup in Qatar last year, winning the Golden Ball award after scoring seven goals at the tournament – including two in the final against France.
The Albiceleste’s triumph was their first in the competition since Maradona – who died in 2020 – produced his own series of talismanic displays to lead them to glory at Mexico 1986.
During an interview in Paris with Andy Kusnetzoff, Messi said he regretted the fact Maradona – who coached him at the 2010 World Cup – was not alive to witness his crowning moment.
“I would have liked Diego to give me the cup, or at least to see all this, to see Argentina as world champions, with everything he wanted and how he loved the national team,” Messi said.
“I think from above, he – like a lot of people who love me – were strong.”
While Messi had to wait until his fifth and likely final World Cup to lift the trophy, the legendary attacker says his triumph could not have come at a better time.
“I think if I had to choose the moment, it would have been this one,” Messi said. “It’s at the end of my career, closing a cycle.
“I achieved everything with the national team as I always dreamed. I got everything in my career, individually. It was about closing my career in a unique way.
“I never imagined that all this was going to happen to me when I started, and getting to this moment was the best. I have no complaints and I can’t ask for more.
“We won the Copa America [in 2021] and the World Cup, there’s nothing left.”
As well as producing several outstanding performances, Messi made headlines for taking on a more vocal role as Argentina’s leader in Qatar.
The Paris Saint-Germain star memorably celebrated a quarter-final goal against the Netherlands in front of Louis van Gaal before describing him as “disrespectful” in a post-match interview, while he also called striker Wout Weghorst a “fool” after the same game.
Messi admits he is not proud of some of his behaviour at the tournament, adding: “I knew what Van Gaal had said but it [the celebration] happened on the spur of the moment.
“I didn’t like what I did, I didn’t like what happened after. These are moments of nervousness and everything happens very quickly.”