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Not even Messi is a prophet in his own land

Argentina’s awful performance in Russia 2018 confirmed that Leo can’t succeed with his national team.

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There is no doubt Lionel Messi is the most thrilling player that we have seen in the last 30 years in planet football. However, his effectiveness is clearly lower when he plays for his country in comparison with the results he gets with FC Barcelona, the club where he has performed for almost his entire career.

Numbers don’t lie.

While Messi has won with Barça nine Spanish league championships, six King’s Cups and four Champions Leagues, with Argentina he has only got an Olympic gold medal and an Under-20 World Cup crown. On the scoring side, he has recorded 100 goals in 125 Champions League games (0.8 a contest) and has scored zero in nine knockout games played in four World Cups for Argentina.

Finding a reason for Messi’s situation is an open debate. Some say teammates that surround Messi in Barcelona are much better than the ones who play for Team Argentina. That might be true if we compare Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suárez with Ángel Di María and Éver Banega. But the difference is not so big, and it was not bigger when Leo was flanked at Barça by midfielders Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta and had in his national squad strikers like Gonzalo Higuaín and Carlos Tévez.

In 2000, when he was only 13, the Argentinian star was very close to signing with River Plate. But the club from Buenos Aires did not trust that a skinny kid could develop into a top professional player. This way, humbly, Messi arrived in Barcelona, where he had a tryout with the Under-14 team.

Since the first day, he astonished everybody. In the trial contest he registered six goals and ended up later signing an agreement in a napkin to be a member of one of Europe’s ancient soccer clubs.   

The task in the following years was very important. Barça knew how to give Messi the security he needed to help him develop as a player and as a person, getting the best out of his introverted talent both on and off the field.

“Leo was very small and he almost did not talk,” recalled international Spanish defenseman Gerard Piqué, who played with Messi in Barça’s development squads. “Nobody could imagine the show he was preparing for all of us”.

In 2004, a few days after turning 17, Messi made his debut with FC Barcelona’s first team in an official game. Since then he has collected the highest success achieved by a player in the history of the legendary club, where he owns all individual scoring records.  

The Argentinian made Catalonia his home, building a family along with his wife, Antonella Rocuzzo, and their three sons, Thiago, Mateo and Ciro. The stability and confidence Leo has got in Spain explain his success in FC Barcelona. Another plus Barça has given Messi is serenity, something he has never had playing for Argentina, where there is a great deal of pressure for immediate results all the time.

When referring to genius, on some occasions the difference between good and great performances relies on the environment that surrounds them. Serenity is key to delivering in the biggest sporting events. There is no doubt that this is Messi’s case as he has ended up becoming the world’s best player away from the country in which he was born.

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