Germany boss Joachim Low has revealed the comments he used to inspire super sub Mario Gotze to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Gotze's decisive goal deep into extra time settled a gruelling final between the Germans and Argentina.
I said to Gotze: ‘OK, show the world you are better than Messi and can decide the World Cup.' I told him that. I always had a good feeling about Gotze. Argentina were becoming more and more tired, but we had players who could make a difference. Gotze is a miracle boy, a boy wonder. He can play any position up front. I know he’s always able to decide a match, and it was a great winner he scored. But in extra time we had the energy to move forward. We didn’t want to go to penalties. We wanted the game decided before then, and we put them under more pressure.
Of course, it's the top line of that quote that will garner the most attention. That's only natural when you consider Low was telling a 22-year-old he is superior to the man many believe is the world's best player.
Even Gotze's winning goal, combined with Messi's relatively quiet performance, is unlikely to convince many the young Germany star is actually better than the dazzling Argentine.
However, Gotze's decisive strike, combined with Low's comments, will begin the debate. It will be a debate about just how good Gotze can become.
That's a reasonable question when applied to such a mercurial bright young player.
The pocket-edition playmaker earned plaudits when he burst onto the scene with Borussia Dortmund in late-2009. He moved to fierce Bundesliga rival FC Bayern Munich at the start of last season. Despite a fast start to life with Bayern, Gotze's progress seemed to have stalled.
He began the World Cup as a starter in Low's team, usually occupying a position on the flanks as an attacking midfielder with license to regularly support the forward line.
However, Gotze soon lost his pace to Miroslav Klose, the veteran striker he replaced in the final. Yet his goal, a flawlessly executed example of instant control and a crisp volley, has put Gotze firmly back on the map.
Along with a player like Schalke 04 forward Julian Draxler, Gotze is part of the awesome depth of talent Germany possesses. It's those kind of reserves that have Low believing his nation can dominate international football for years, per BBC Sport writer Phil McNulty:
We have young players who aren't even here and other players with a fantastic future such as Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil, Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller.
They can go on to play for a number of years. We can play on top of the world for a good number of years, with some young players coming in to reinforce the team.
Gotze not only cemented his place in history thanks to his winning goal. He has also ensured that he will be a key figure for his nation for years to come.
As for Messi, his reputation as the greatest player of today shouldn't change even after more disappointment at international level. That's despite several pundits being less than impressed with his contributions during the tournament:
The FC Barcelona ace certainly wasted a great opportunity to deliver on the biggest stage of all. Such a performance would have proved he merits comparison alongside the game's greatest ever players.
With young talents like Gotze and Colombia star James Rodriguez having made huge impacts in Brazil, Messi knows the competition to take over his place as the best player of today is serious.