Lionel Messi is going for his fifth World Cup with the illusion intact. Like when he made his debut in the most important national team competition in Germany 2006, but with the experience that his 35 years give him and a journey dressed in light blue and white that finally had its reward with obtaining the Copa América 2021 and the Finalissima of this year. The World Cup would be a golden brooch for Rosario in the final stretch of a brilliant career that will always leave him among the greatest footballers in history.
A little over a week before the debut of the Argentine National Team in Qatar (on the 22nd, against Saudi Arabia, starting at 7, Argentine time), the captain of the national team attended Olé in Paris and offered an interview in which he shared his feelings on the eve of a new World Cup. He touched on all the topics and was excited about a new opportunity to win a title with the National Team and to be the third Argentine captain in history behind Daniel Passarella and Diego Maradona to lift the most coveted trophy.
On the day that Lionel Scaloni confirmed the 26 players who will be in Qatar, Messi compared the current group with the one that achieved the runner-up position in Brazil 2014 for “unity and mentality”. But he also asked for caution: “It would be a mistake to think about the round of 16. You have to think about the first game. Starting by winning would be fundamental.”
Messi’s complete interview with Olé
-Last year we were in Barcelona, we made a production before the Copa América. And look how it all ended… Are you a cabulero?
-No, not really. I try not. That way, yes, it depends on the moments, on how I hold on. I try not. I think if I did this or not, but overall pretty quiet. A cabal throughout the race… but no.
-I hope it helps…
-Hopefully, it all adds up, it all adds up, haha.
-What lessons do you learn from the four world cups you played, from Germany 2006 to Russia 2018?
-Well, in the first one I was very young. I enjoyed it and at the same time I had the innocence and the anger of wanting to play, of wanting more. On the one hand, it’s good and on the other hand I missed out on a lot of things just thinking about it. Then, the 2014 World Cup, where we did very well, which was an unforgettable experience, where I really enjoyed it and where it became clearer than ever that the main thing and the important thing is that it be a strong and united group. That ultimately leads you to the important goal. Today I feel a lot of similarities between this group and the one from 2014 and all that process until the end of the World Cup. It seems very similar to me on that side, the group that was put together, the group and mental strength I think is very important. Afterwards, I think I learned how to start the World Cup well and win the first game, I think it’s fundamental and it marks you a lot for the rest of the World Cup. And I don’t know, later I’m taking things that I was learning.
-How do you deal with outside pressures, beyond being stars? Without coaching, with group work? Argentines dominate Qatar even though there are special dollars and it is expensive…
-Well, at the level of the people it always happened to us in all the World Cups that I had to be. In Argentina it was always difficult for people to reach the World Cup and the impossible was always done to be able to be there. And he will continue to do so because of what we Argentines are, because of what we feel for the National Team, because we want to be there and because we do anything to be there, both as a player and as a fan.
-And the pressure?
-At the pressure level, I think we have to isolate ourselves from everything that people are experiencing. Although we have a great illusion, we are also realistic and aware that we are going through a good time; at the same time we have to know that it is a World Cup, that it is very difficult. Where all the details add up, any detail at the same time can leave you out of a game. That in a game anything can happen. that logic does not always hold; that we have to go from the first to the last game in the same way. It is a group that always does it and whatever the match, they play it with the same intensity and concentration and I think that is very important. And knowing that we are going to fight it but that we are not going to be champions from the outset as we Argentines think.
-Of course, for example in the round of 16, if logic is given, it would be Denmark or France…
-Yes, that’s already a mistake, thinking about the round of 16, but you should think about the first game. Start winning, as I said before, it is essential to start off on the right foot, add three and I think that gives you peace of mind for the next. Today we say it can be such and such and then it happens differently. To us too In the last World Cup before going we were already first. We were already in the round of 16, we were thinking about the crossover and in the end everything was different. And I think that in the World Cup things always happen that one does not imagine, that a priori are rare. And we have to think about the first game….
-Is it better to arrive undefeated? Because in case of a misstep, we would have to see how the group reacts…
-No, the truth is that beyond the fact that it is a statistic and a nice record that will remain if we meet the goal and go to Italy (he has a record of 37 games), we don’t think about that either. And surely the bad ones will come at some point, and we will pass them. This group is prepared for the bad. In fact, we have started from a bad one, this group was formed when we lost to Brazil in the Copa América semifinals in 2019 and from there what was generated was generated. Well, I think we are going to be prepared, hopefully they are not so bad and let’s move on. But we are fine as we arrived, without thinking about the undefeated.
-Have you made promises throughout your career? To think about seeing you peeled or dyed or going to a Virgin at the end of the year.
-No, the truth is that I am not one to make promises nor have I made promises. I just always think that God is the one who decides, God knows when the time is, what the time is and what has to happen. And I am always grateful for everything that happened to me both in football and in my life. What has to come, will come and I think he is the one who decides. I just think about it, the truth is that I am not one to make promises.
-In this permanent coexistence in Paris, is there pressure from the boys, who are older? Or Antonella?
-Today the truth is. As the whole country is, there is great anxiety in the family. Especially in Antonela, in Thiago. He is watching videos of the National Team all the time, the possible matches, the matches, the rivals, when are we going, when is the first match, when is the second, he is nervous, he is anxious. The truth is that he puts terrible pressure on me.
-What would you like to have from a partner? Argentine or foreign…
-I don’t know… at this point in my career… I’m telling you, at this point, wanting to have something different from someone else is too late, too late. My career, what I did I did. But on a personal level, each one has their personality or their way of being. I like different personalities, but I don’t know if I could be one way, not to name any. in the game either. It is not that I want to say I do not want anything from anyone, that is well understood. I am as I am and I am old.
-In recent times you see fans coming in looking for you and rivals asking for your shirt, sometimes you have to say no-. What do you feel in those different moments?
-Well, the players sometimes give me a thing, I tell them I already promised someone else and out there he looks at you kind of ugly. ‘She is lying to me’, ‘You don’t want to give it to me’, but I already promised it to someone else. In all matches, most of the time I change both jerseys. And then, the issue of people lately was happening a lot, in some I got a scare like in the last match of the National Team (with Honduras in Miami) when the security came and even hit me. But hey, generally they are very nice signs of affection and for someone to do something like that with all that it means and so crazy and what they do knowing what can happen to them later… Apart from that, you don’t know what the hell to do, how are they doing to act security. Sometimes they come aggressive and it doesn’t take that much either. But yes, they are uncomfortable moments for everyone because of what is generated.
Sitting comfortably in the dining room of his house, with two cameras pointing at him, the closing: -To close this note, as always, a final message for the Argentines who dream.
-As always, always in front of some important competition we say the same thing. Grateful for all the love always. I am excited as you. And well, let’s hope we give our all as always and fight it out. We’re going to fight anyone because this group fights every match as equals, playing better or worse. I have no doubts that he is not going to give anything away, that it can come out in the best way and I hope God helps us.