Lionel Messi’s Last Dance – The Ringer

Every city has its own reference monument: a building or landmark that you can find anywhere in the city just by looking at or approaching your home. Looking down from Mount Corcovado in Rio is the image of Christ the Redeemer; In Berlin, it’s the majestic Fernsehturm, or TV Tower. In an increasingly chaotic universe, there is something eternally comforting about these fixed points.

In the existence of many football fans, the World Cup is such a fixed point. As we go through our weeks and months, our joys and disappointments, the World Cup is always there, more than four years away, the defining event of our lives. We first learned it in our youth and we still look forward to it in our fall and winter. Our age can be measured by something other than the number of years we have lived: although I am 43 years old, having watched nine World Cups is just as important to me.

As we watch the World Cup, we begin to notice certain patterns that repeat themselves in every tournament. There are bands that delight us at the beginning and then slowly fade into the ether as unimaginatively romantic: these are “flames of summer” like Columbia in 2014. There are groups that are not good. It is enough to win everything, but the final winners of the World Cup will be given the most difficult stage in the whole journey: these are the “goalkeepers”, for example, the strong Argentine team coached by Jorge Sampaoli, France had to win in the round of 16. In the year In 2018, the side that Sampaoli said would go out “knife between their teeth” only lost a thrilling contest, forcing a normally vulnerable France to attack all over the place. That match, arguably the best of the World Cup, saw Kylian Mbappé – who won a penalty in the first half and scored twice in the second half five minutes from time – make his first leap towards greatness. It was also the first time France looked like they could really be champions. Then there are other teams – Senegal in 2002 – who have come into action in a way that has exceeded expectations and made everything about them amazing, if only for a while. They are commonly known as the “dark horses”, but I prefer to call them the phrase I have come up with. Stadium Podcast Coast Ryan Hoon, “Wedding Crashes.

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But the best design of all is “The Last Dance”. This is when an elite player – someone whose influence on the game is so significant that he can be a monument in himself – prepares to play the final tournament. Winning the World Cup is a strange and perhaps unfair measure, a way in which luck plays an unusually large role in judging a footballer’s greatness. It means winning consecutive games over a month, for which the individual must first be lucky enough to be fully fit and then have a team around them. Judging a player’s greatness at the World Cup is like judging a university student after five years of study on the results of a one-hour exam.

However, this is the point Leo Messi has reached now, he has reached the World Cup which he has confirmed will be his last. He has moved into the tactical and spiritual heart of this Argentinian team each season: from his early years as a warp-speed winger to his mid-career as an all-action no. 10 for its current incarnation as a more patient, more central and more independent player. Watching Messi for Argentina feels like the shocking realization that you’ve just reached the last glass of your bottle of red wine: you’ve enjoyed the journey, but fear you haven’t savored it enough.

The last time Zinedine Zidane felt a sense of football was before the 2006 World Cup when he declared that this tournament was the last time he won the football field. Then we found ourselves watching every game with a sense of dread, knowing that any defeat against France would spell the end for Zidane. The night before France reached its peak due to his brilliance, I spent one evening watching highlights of his life on YouTube and then briefly walked by my apartment. It’s a little embarrassing to reveal this, but upon reflection, I think I’m sad. Over the years, Zidane’s performances have been a consistent source of escapism, a source of beauty: no matter how tough my work week, I know I can at least tune in on a Saturday or Sunday to see him do something amazing for club or country. .

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The situation is the same for Messi. There have been countless times over the past few years when I’ve taken a break from my desk to walk around town, and that break was soon followed by a 90-minute stop at work when I passed by a local pub and saw that Messi work. The team was about to start. Pep Guardiola told us this a long time ago: “Always look at Messi” because one day we can’t. I may never experience the Northern Lights in person, but seeing the iconic Messi on all those television screens is the closest thing I’ll ever see to that heavenly wonder: a sensation of excitement hanging over us that most of us don’t even know about. The emptiness that glows so delightfully.

As Messi prepares for his final dance, he will perform with perhaps his strongest supporting cast to date, as Argentina won last year’s Copa America for the first time since 1993. Part of a number of exceptionally talented national teams—perhaps most notably World Cup 2006 selection, Pablo Aymar, Carlos Tevez, Hernán Crespo, Javier Saviola and Juan Roman Riquelme—but none of them decisive. Here he can rely on the defensive prowess of Cristian Romero, the brave and charming goalkeeping of Amy Martinez, the brilliant finishing of Lautaro Martinez and Julian Alvarez and the creative genius of Angel Di Maria. Last but not least, he has his loyal lieutenant Rodrigo de Paul, who always seems to be the first on the scene whenever Messi is physically abused by an opposing player.

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The Copa America triumph over hosts Brazil, just as it did at the Maracana Stadium, was a double milestone for Messi, who was the player of the tournament. This means that he has achieved a higher status than Diego Maradona, who was pressured to emulate the legend or somehow surpass him – and to some extent he is freed from a lot of pressure. It was the first tournament where the dynamic Messi carried the team and transferred to the team that Messi carried. He cut a surprisingly weak figure in the early rounds in the final and lost the chance to win the game with his strong scoring. Along the way, he’s had to draw on the team’s strength more than ever before, and one by one, Martinez’s penalty-kick heroics against Colombia or Di Maria’s winner against Brazil have met the challenge. As he watched him fall at the final whistle, it was clear that Messi knew he could no longer be seen as an invincible figure for his country. When we see him scoring all five goals in Argentina’s 5-0 win or tearing it up in Estonia in a recent friendly in the final against Italy, we can sense a man playing with greater freedom in blue and blue. White shirt more than before.

Qatar is known for how it looks on the dance floor, with reigning champions France and Brazil likely to be other strong contenders. There are those who still believe that to be considered the best football player, he should go home with the trophy. However, Messi, our fixed point for a long time, has already found his way through the cosmos; And all that’s left is our fear and perhaps our anxiety about his final flight.

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