Sport

NO 10 RESERVED

Messi’s jersey will be ready if decides to play at next World Cup — Scaloni

Messi’s jersey will be ready if decides to play at next World Cup — Scaloni
Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates with the World Cup Trophy trophy during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on 18 December, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Though Lionel Messi has not retired from the Argentina national team, he has previously hinted that the Qatar World Cup would be his final. However, his coach has left the door open for the ‘little magician’ should he wish to play when the next edition of the tournament comes around.  

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said that he will keep Lionel Messi’s jersey ready in case the talismanic captain wishes to play at the next World Cup after he ended the country’s 36-year wait to hoist the golden trophy again.

On a night of high drama, Messi scored two goals and again in the shootout as he led Argentina to an emotional 4-2 win on penalties over France on Sunday, with the match ending in a 3-3 draw following 120 minutes of breathtaking action.

After finally fulfilling a lifelong dream by lifting the ultimate prize in world soccer, many thought the 35-year-old Messi may never again come out wearing the famed blue and white stripes of Argentina. But within a few moments, Messi declared that he does not plan to retire from international duty in the near future.

It was a decision welcomed by his coach.

“I think we should keep the No 10 jersey prepared for the next World Cup if he (Messi) feels like playing,” Scaloni told a news conference.

“He earned the right to do whatever he wants with his career. What he transmits to his teammates is incredible. I have never seen such an influential person in the changing room.”

Scaloni said following last year’s Copa America triumph when they beat Brazil in the final, they started to feel unbeatable.

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 quarterfinal match between Netherlands and Argentina at Lusail Stadium on 9 December, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

“After (we beat) Brazil, I had a conversation with Messi… (and explained) we had a big task in front of us, people from our country were starting to believe (in our World Cup chances), to hope, and pressure was rising,” said Scaloni.

“He told me that ‘we have to keep going, nothing else matters’ and that gave me a tremendous emotional boost. I realised that we were on the verge of (achieving) something (big).”


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With the World Cup triumph coming just two years following the death of Diego Maradona, who had famously led Argentina to their last title in 1986, an emotional Scaloni said: “I only now realise that Maradona is not with us anymore and that makes me think that he will be happy and proud of us from where he is.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi of Argentina looks towards the Argentinian fans during the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 semifinal match between Argentina and Croatia at Lusail Stadium on 13 December, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

“If he was here, he would have been the first fan to step on the pitch to celebrate with us. I hope he has enjoyed what we accomplished.”

He also wept as it dawned on him what the win meant to the millions of people who had followed the team’s journey from home, including his family and friends.

“It wasn’t in my plans to be world champion. It’s madness,” Scaloni said. “There is no bigger pride than representing your country and I hope we made our fans proud.”

Messi’s jersey will be ready if decides to play at the next World Cup, says Scaloni. DM/Reuters

The following is a look at Argentina captain Lionel Messi’s career by numbers:

499 million: Global followers on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram (over 10 times the population of Argentina)

$120-million: Messi’s estimated earnings for the 2022-23 season before taxes and agents’ fees, according to Forbes.

$26.60-million: Messi’s estimated transfer value, according to Swiss research group Cies Football Observatory.

2,315: Minutes played in the World Cup. No one has played more.

853: Club matches for Barcelona B, Barcelona, and Paris St Germain

701: Club goals for Barcelona B, Barcelona, and Paris St Germain

172: International caps

98: International goals

37: Club trophies won

35: Age

26: Matches played at the World Cup (Overall record)

19: Appearances as captain in the World Cup — a record

16 years: The gap between his first and latest World Cup goals

13: World Cup goals (Argentine record)

11: Player of the match awards (first given in 2002)

7: Ballons d’Or

6: Men to have played in five World Cups — Messi, Lothar Matthaeus, Antonio Carbajal, Rafa Marquez, Andres Guardado and Cristiano Ronaldo

6: Assists in the knockout phase of World Cups

2: World Cup finals

1: Copa America trophy

1: World Cup winners’ medals

Gallery

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