Why Lionel Messi Must Win a Major Honour With Argentina to Be Considered the Greatest

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There's no doubt that Lionel Messi is one the greatest players of this generation. However, despite his jaw dropping performances for Barcelona since his debut in 2004, there is one thing that has evaded the Argentine; success with his country at either a World Cup or a Copa America.

Messi's record with his club is quite frankly ridiculous. 524 goals in 604 games, 21 major trophies. At club level he is truly a complete player. At international level though, it's a very different story. 

After some bright moments at the 2006 World Cup, things looked hopeful for Argentina's latest number 10 after winning the best young player at the 2007 Copa America, but a defeat in a final would become a regular occurrence in the blue and white shirt.


A gold medal at the 2008 Olympics seemed to be a step in the right direction, but after two sensational seasons at Barcelona in 2008/09 and 2009/10, Argentine fans had hoped that he would deliver the World Cup in 2010 with the then 23-year-old firmly in his prime. However, Messi failed to score a single goal in South Africa and seeing his brilliance that Barca fans were used to every week was extremely rare.

Messi's inability to adapt to Argentina's style of play was the first step to international failure not just in 2010, but going forward. He had the chance to redeem himself as the national side hosted the 2011 Copa America with expectations to win. 

By the time the tournament came around, he was without a competitive international goal for two years and it continued as he contributed very little as the team scraped through by the skin of their teeth before a penalty shootout defeat to Uruguay in the very next round.


The 2014 FIFA World Cup started well, with Messi impressing in the group stages. Finally it looked as if Argentina's chosen one would deliver on the international stage throughout. Then the knockout stages came, and it was the same old story. 

Despite a match winning assist in the next round, the goals dried up and a mediocre Argentina side scraped through to the final, where Messi again failed to register anything and practically went missing as Germany won it in extra time. 

The fact he won the best player award when players who delivered throughout such as Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Mats Hummels came short was just bizarre.

What happened next was frankly embarrassing for him on a personal note. The 2015 Copa America saw him help his country to another final, this time with just a single goal. After a final against Chile where you could be forgiven to forgetting he was playing, another penalty shoot-out defeat ensued. 

12 months later, the same opponents in the Copa America Centenario and surely it couldn't happen, could it? He may have scored five goals to help them into the final, but another goalless final against Chile led to another shoot-out.


Messi stepped up and did what he did best. Blasted it over the bar. Wait, what? Yep. Argentina's chosen one blazed it over as Chile won it again in penalties, leading Messi to weep on the pitch and retire after the game. The supposed best player in the world, Argentina's chosen one who was meant to be the one who would guide them to greatness quit on them just months after guiding Barcelona to yet more domestic success with 54 goals.

All of this took place whilst Messi was slamming in goals for fun with Barcelona, but what made players like Maradona, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Zidane so great was their consistency to help both club and country to success. Even Cristiano Ronaldo guided a dreadful Portugal side to the European Championship in 2016 whilst helping his club to another Champions League that year.

Messi may have eventually changed his mind, but it doesn't look great, really. Lost three international finals in a row, called it quits. Yet over 500 goals for Barcelona, countless trophies, surely if he is the greatest player ever he would bring that consistency into the national team?

Even if he delivered consistently good displays throughout the tournament, but they failed to win it, that would be something. It would show Messi is able to adapt his game to the international stage on a consistent basis, because at the moment it's every now and then and quite simply that's something the 'greatest player of all time' doesn't do.

At 30 years of age, Messi has only a few international tournaments to prove he is not an 'international bottler' who quits when he loses finals, something he isn't use to with Barcelona, where he has only ever lost one club final in his whole career, compared to three in three years with Argentina.