|De Paul and Tagliafico run to Messi at full time.EFE|
Lionel Messi was in football heaven on Saturday night as, after so many years of success at club level, he was finally able to lift a trophy for his country.
Argentina triumphed 1-0 over Brazil in the Copa America final and their No.10 felt that providence had been saving this moment for him.
Now, no longer will Messi have to bear the cross of having never won anything for Argentina, a rather unfair yet common criticism aimed in his direction, especially when discussing his status as one of the all-time greats of the game.
“I needed to get that thorn out my side of having never won anything with the national side, I’ve been close for a long time and I knew it was going to happen some time,” said Messi after the game.
“I’m grateful to God for giving me this moment against Brazil in the final and in their country.
“I think He was saving this moment for me.”
Understandably, Messi was overjoyed, not just for what it means for his career after so many years of trying, but for what it means to Argentina to win their first title since 1993.
“It’s crazy, I can’t explain the happiness I feel, so many times I’ve had to leave sad, I knew that had to change some time, there was no better time,” continued Messi.
“This group deserved it, it’s something special.
“I’ve dreamt about this many times. I dedicate it to my family, my wife, my kids, my parents, my siblings, who have suffered as much as me or worse in the past.”
Clearly, for Messi, this was, beyond giving joy to the nation which he so loves representing, also a form of personal redemption, having taken Argentina‘s previous lack of success very personally, now he can rest easy before the new club season.
“We always had to spend the first few days of the holidays sad, having not won anything, but this time it’s different,” said Messi.
“I had a lot of faith in this group, which has been getting stronger since the last Copa America, when we did some good things.
“A group of good people who always look ahead, don’t complain about anything, despite the many days of isolation, without seeing family, but the objective was clear and we did it: we were able to become champions and the joy is incredible.”
During the game itself, Messi was quiet and he revealed he had been carrying a few knocks, but he pointed out that so were various others. Making history was surely worth it.
“I think we still don’t realise what we have actually done, beyond becoming champions,” said Messi.
“Now we’re very happy, we’re celebrating, but this will go down in history for having beaten Brazil in the final in Brazil.
“I told [my teammates] that they are the future of the national team and I wasn’t wrong, they’ve proved me right by winning this Copa.”
While revelling in the triumph of this group of special players, the 34-year-old also took a moment to acknowledge those who weren’t part of this squad but have previously donned an Argentina shirt alongside him.
“I would like to share this with all my former teammates, we came so close many times but it wasn’t to be,” said Messi.
“They deserve to experience this too, I know they are happy for us, for Argentina, I’d like to share it with them because they have also done so much for the national team.
“It fell to us to lift the trophy, but this was years in the making.”