Growing up supporting Manchester United, I've always been a Cristiano Ronaldo fan. When he joined Real Madrid, my loyalty followed (it also helped that David Beckham used to play for Real) and I started supporting Real as well. Which automatically made Barcelona a rival club. You tend to hate the rival clubs and their players. But not Lionel Messi. You just don't hate Lionel Messi. Why?
Well, have you ever watched Lionel Messi play football?
Pele once called football the beautiful game. Between all the tackles, the foul play, the dives and the dirty tactics, it is players like Lionel Andres Messi who pay testament to what the Brazilian said.
For a player who deserved every trophy on his shelf, international glory has always eluded him.
“This is not for me”, he said right after losing to Chile in the Copa America final, a few hours ago.
But I don't agree with you, Leo. If football is for someone, no matter what the stage, it is you. I'm sure it is not easy being the best player in the world and proving it week in & week out, and that too for seasons on end.
But the thing is that you did. You still do. Ask the ones who watch you and they will verify this statement. 5 Golden Balls on a cabinet don't lie. There is no disputing that fact.
You earned those!
Your stats are enough to prove what a great career you've had. Probably the best in football history. And for anyone who thinks that you let your country down, let me remind them who got them to the final every time.
Be it the World Cup or last summer's Copa America or this one. When they needed you to, you've always stepped up. You've carried the hopes of a football-crazy nation on your shoulders every time you dribbled your way through a maze of defenders.
Football has always been a team sport. With the talent you have, you could've easily been a very selfish player. But you aren't. You have always put the team first. It shows in your assists and in your celebrations. The team's victory has always been top priority for you.
Your retirement has not only shook your fans but the entire footballing world. For a career marked with glorious goals, countless assists and magnificent victories, you once again proved that you are a team player first.
You stepped down because you think that is in the best interest of your team, though many will disagree.
Your concern for the team and your country is admirable. But for all those who have seen you play and have followed your career know very well that there hasn't been a player like you and there never will be.
Thank you for being so humble and being the best in the world. Thank you for proving that trophies don't define a player.