Club down, Messi turns to country
If there were still any doubts,
That strike was a fitting moment for Messi, who not only finished as the highest scorer of the competition with nine goals, but as the most valuable player. Those accomplishments, coupled with his starring role in helping Barça claim the Spanish league championship and the Copa del Rey this season, make him a virtual lock to win the FIFA World Player of the Year Award for 2009.
Last year, Messi was beaten to the award by
The comparisons are definitely there, but the only way the 21-year-old can be seen in the same light as
"To win the World Cup would be much greater than what I achieved with Barcelona,"
However, Argentina has to get there first. And things haven't gone exactly to plan in World Cup qualifying, which resumes for South America this weekend. Fourth-place Argentina must pick up results in its upcoming games with Colombia and Ecuador, two teams it failed to beat in the first round.
In Maradona's second game in charge for Argentina in April,
But with Messi at the center of things, Argentina is still expected to secure one of four automatic World Cup berths designated for South American teams. Argentina features an abundance of talent, and even if Messi has an off-day, several of his teammates are capable of turning on the style.
"With the players it has, the national team is spectacular," Messi said. "It is prepared and it might be the moment for Argentina to be world champions again. There is lots of work to do, so the more we are together, the better it will be."
Having played a determining role in helping Argentina claim gold at last year's Beijing Olympics, as well as the '05 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Messi already has triumphed while wearing the national-team colors. He will be hoping to translate that success to the senior team, the one place he has yet to reach his full potential.
Although Messi has been surrounded during qualifying by loads of quality players, he has struggled to make an impact. With only four goals through 12 games, he has failed to live up to expectations, and Argentina has been affected as a result. Messi even admitted that the Argentine faithful are much more demanding than Barcelona fans, and that earning their respect takes time. Although time is sparse during qualification, Messi believes it won't be long before Argentina finds the ideal blend.
"At Barça, I have the entire year to demonstrate things, and to play good matches," he said. "There is always a chance for revenge. In the national team, you play two matches every two or three months, and the people stay with this image. It is very difficult. But bit by bit things are going to turn out how Diego wants them to."