How Will World Cup Disappointment Affect Lionel Messi?

Jason PettigroveContributor IJuly 14, 2014

Lionel Messi was a peripheral figure in the World Cup final.
Lionel Messi was a peripheral figure in the World Cup final.Pool/Getty Images

Lionel Messi didn't deserve the ultimate accolade, nor was he a worthy recipient of the Golden Ball for player of the tournament at the World Cup.

Indeed, club colleague Javier Mascherano would've been a much better fit for the latter but perhaps doesn't have the right profile.

When the going got tough in Brazil, Messi never really got going. Yes, some of the stats—such as the ones in this report by Adam Shergold of the Daily Mail—will tell you he had most dribbles and created most chances, but it doesn't really give a full picture.

In the quarter-final against Belgium and the semi-final against Holland, Messi neither scored nor provided an assist, per Gregory Walton of the Daily Telegraph.

Take a look at the footage of the final again.

Aside from the odd flash of the Lionel Messi that we know and love, he was on the periphery throughout. Countless times he could be seen just ambling around, appearing to not have a care in the world. The reality is he did the bare minimum and that's just not good enough.

Perhaps it was due to his legs "weighing 100 kilos" and suffering from extreme fatigue, according to his father Jorge in an interview with Folha de S.Paulo via the Daily Telegraph.

More likely it was down to studious tactical variations from Argentina's various opponents, knowing that if they could stifle Messi's creativity and mark him out of the game, the Albiceleste had little else to trouble them with. More so with the injuries to Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria.

In any event, where does that leave Messi? As Argentina limped their way into the final, there was a very real sense that this would be Messi's crowning glory.

Despite his own poor form, the blue and whites had made it past the quarter-final stage for the first time in 24 years. A time when a Diego Maradona-led team had reached the final coincidentally against the Germans.

Messi couldn't emulate the other great Argentine number 10 and win a World Cup.
Messi couldn't emulate the other great Argentine number 10 and win a World Cup.Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

Then, as now, their main protagonist couldn't help them scale the heights, and only the most optimistic of supporters will believe that Maradona's protege will lead his side to glory in Russia four years from now. By then, Messi will be a 31-year-old veteran with another 48 months graft in those tired legs.

His time was now and we saw that he really wasn't up for the fight, coming as it did off of the back of a disappointing club season.

Now he has to focus all of his energy back to Barcelona and somehow lift himself from the malaise to become the main man domestically once more. But does he have it within himself to "go again?"

Will the addition of Luis Suarez to the roster in October help to keep him on his toes, or will Messi see it as another opportunity to kick back and pass on the responsibility to others?

He has always flourished in the past precisely because of the pressure of being the focal point of any team within which he played. But those teams had always been successful. As Barca began to lose ground last season, we saw less and less of the Messi of old.

Now that the game's biggest prize has probably eluded him for good, lost in the dying moments of the final match, there's every chance that a World Cup hangover will be extensive and therefore potentially fatal for Barca's immediate hopes of bouncing back atop the domestic and European tree.