The club versus country debate is as old as time in England, but if you try to find the phrase in Argentina, you’ll probably hit a dead end.
Lionel Messi knows this all too well, with some in his native country almost disowning the Spanish citizen who left Rosario more than two decades ago.
Little admired compared to Boca Juniors and River Plate sons such as Carlos Tevez and Pablo Aimar, Messi could erase any remaining dislike with a trophy lift on Sunday.
But in doing so, he may well earn the ire of another nation in the World Cup final, much like the man he is so desperate to replicate.
Messi faces France in what has long been scheduled as his last dance in international football, but what was not expected was that he would do so as a citizen of Paris.
Signing for Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent from long-time club Barcelona last summer, Messi was welcomed with open arms by an ecstatic Parc des Princes, but that could quickly change if the story unfolds. continues.
The last man to lead Argentina to World Cup glory was Diego Maradona in 1986, achieving the only feat left for Messi, likely ending any debate over who is the greatest footballer of all. time.
Maradona put his name at the very top of this list in 1986, but in 1990 his lawsuits ended in tragedy rather than honor.
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Fate said it would always be that way, and it was confirmed later in the semi-finals when hosts and Maradona’s home of Italy drew Argentina.
The No.10 had led Napoli to the greatest years of their history by becoming the best player in the world, but if things weren’t awkward enough the match was played at his club’s stadium, the San Paolo, now called the Stadio. Diego Armando Maradona.
And depending on who you believe, Maradona knowingly or unknowingly stoked pre-match tensions when he suggested the Neapolitans should back him.
“It’s been six years of my life here at Napoli, I think people know me well now and they will support my national team,” he said before the game.
“I can’t ask anything more from the Neapolitans than what I’ve asked for in these six years, but if they want to see me happy, I would certainly be happy if they supported Argentina.
“Also because we need them, and I believe that when Napoli needed Maradona, I came for them.”
There is still a dispute over whether Maradona intended to play on the tensions between the wealthy north and the more impoverished south, but the media had no doubts.
Maradona was attacked in the press before the game, and after scoring a penalty in the shootout to send Italy packing for their home tournament, things only got worse.
“That’s when everything started to go wrong for him in Italy, that’s when they finally said to each other, ‘Enough is enough,'” said Italian historian John Foot. .
“Italy is turning against him, the protection he had… He is no longer protected against the press, justice, the tax authorities, the backlash is nasty.”
A rather boring final in Rome was lost 1-0 to West Germany and, due to its subdued nature, the pre-match scenes dominated.
The stadium erupted with boos as the Argentine national anthem played, with a furious Maradona quite clearly seen saying “son of b*****s”.
It turned out to be a sad ending for an all-time great at the club that characterized him, with his career taking a dramatic turn after Argentina’s final defeat.
Of course, Messi’s situation is very different as a player intrinsically linked to Barcelona, but what happens on Sunday could define the end of his career.
Messi could well crown himself as the undisputed greatest of all time at the Lusail stadium, but in doing so he may need to quickly collect his belongings in Paris as his career draws to a close.
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