What is the significance of winning a major prize for the country of Argentina? Argentina's Messi scored his 55th goal in the Copa America Centenario, breaking the previous record of Gabriel Batistuta. According to this criteria, he's the greatest Argentine player of all time. There are those who argue that Diego Maradona is the greatest Argentinian player of all time, despite the fact that he scored just 34 goals. Only in 1986, when he scored his famous "Hand of God" goal against the United States, did Maradona win a World Cup. Many Argentinians, as well as many others, place Maradona above Messi in this regard.
There is no way to compare the achievements of different players, given the varying eras, teammates, opponents, and other variables. Rather, it appears that the easiest way to distinguish the two is by how we feel about their careers in retrospect (assuming Messi is done). We can't help but be disappointed by Messi's career when we look at it. With all of his skill, he has lost four major tournament finals with Argentina, three of which have occurred in the last eight years. His Barcelona career has seen him win seven Ballon d'Or awards, and he has also won every other trophy in the world. Because of the stark contrast between his domestic and international achievements, it's obvious why he receives so much criticism from Argentinian fans and the media (even though won Copa American once).
Messi gets a lot of flak for not being a true Argentinian, and he doesn't like it. Barcelona's La Masia youth academy took Messi from Rosario, Argentina, when he was 13 years old, so he didn't get his start with the likes of Boca Juniors or River Plate. The fact that so many people do not consider Messi to be an Argentine is understandable. When he was 18, he got a Spanish passport and citizenship, allowing him to play for Barcelona as a European citizen and escape La Liga's restrictions on foreign players. His profession and personal life have done little to emphasize his Argentinian heritage, and he appears to be an outsider among his teammates, as evidenced by his blank face during the playing of Argentina's national anthem.
In my opinion, Messi will be recognized as a Barcelona player before he will be known as an Argentinian player. It's more likely that the blaugranes (Barcelona) will be featured in his legacy than the albiceleste (Argentina football team). Disappointingly, his international legacy is exceedingly convoluted.
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