Lionel Messi Talks World Cup Good Will, Slams Argentina Treatment by the Press

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2018

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 11: Lionel Messi of Argentina looks on during an international friendly match between Russia and Argentina at Luzhniki Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images)
Epsilon/Getty Images

Lionel Messi is happy for the support he and Argentina have received ahead of the 2018 World Cup but has slammed the treatment of the team at the hands of the press.

Speaking on Argentinian television show La Cornisa (h/t Marca), Messi said: 

"I have seen everywhere how many people want it to also be a good World Cup for me, that there is a desire to see me win it. 

"The truth is that it has struck me, that in any part of the world they are waiting for Argentina to become the champions and for it to be given to me, it is impressive."

Messi will turn 31 during this year's tournament, and it may be the last World Cup he'll compete at in his prime.

The forward is already considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, but he is perhaps yet to truly make his mark on football's biggest stage. 

He picked up the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup as he guided Argentina to the final, but with all four of his goals having come in the group stage, he was something of a surprise choice for the award.

Miguel Delaney of The Independent would like to see Messi at his best this year:

For some, Messi's lack of silverware on the international stage prevents him from being considered in the same bracket as legends such as Diego Maradona and Pele, who won the World Cup once and three times, respectively.

Football writer and commentator Juan G. Arango believes it will matter the most to his reputation in his own country if he does not manage to win a World Cup:

Messi also helped La Albiceleste reach the final of the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, but on both occasions they lost on penalties to Chile, with Messi scoring in the first shootout and missing in the second.

Despite the achievement of reaching three major finals in as many years, Messi believes the treatment they have received has been unfair, with this tournament representing the last chance for many of this generation:

"That is behind the thinking about this whole group, right? That we reached three finals, which unfortunately we couldn't win and many things were said about us.

"They don't think about us getting closer to becoming champions, [they think] that we won't have another chance. If so, they will ask that the entire group of players leave the national team."

Given the talent Argentina have at their disposal, particularly in attacking areas, it is a poor reflection of their capability that they didn't manage a single goal in any of the three finals in which they have contested.

Along with Messi, La Albiceleste have also been able to call upon the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, but all three will be 34 by the time the 2022 World Cup comes around, so realistically this is their last chance, aside from the 2019 Copa America.

(L to R top) Argentina's defender Marcos Rojo, defender Federico Fernandez, defender Ezequiel Garay, goalkeeper Sergio Romero, midfielder Javier Mascherano and midfielder Fernando Gago  and (front L  to R)  midfielder Angel Di Maria, forward Lionel Messi
JUAN MABROMATA/Getty Images

Argentina captain Messi has also been at odds with the local press in the past.

In 2016, he led his team-mates in a media boycott after a journalist made allegations about Ezequiel Lavezzi smoking marijuana amid criticism of the national side as they struggled during World Cup qualifying.

He added:

"They were already saying things out of place, things that have nothing to do with sports.

"They say that, if we play well, if we play badly, if it is a disaster, that we don't have to be there, but already they get into our private life and other things that are lies.

"Not only [Lavezzi], but a lot of barbarities have been said so they can win a fight."

Messi also discussed the state of the country as a whole during the interview and is unsure if he will return to Argentina to live upon his retirement because of the crime and social problems there.

"I suffer and I feel sorry that today Argentina is as it is," he said, (h/t Sport, via Goal's Ryan Benson). "The reality of the country, the insecurity. I look at the future, I think about being able to return to Rosario and enjoying my city because I could not do so as a kid, I had to come here, something I do not regret, but I'm worried."

He is contracted to Barcelona until 2021, but the talisman has revealed his desire to play for boyhood club Newell's Old Boys prior to retiring.

However, due to ongoing concerns regarding his home country, he may opt to see out his glittering career with Barca, which would be a similarly fitting end.  

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