Lionel Messi is used to facing criticism when he pulls on the Argentina shirt, often being accused of not being able to replicate his Barcelona form when playing for his country.
He must have thought he’d finally escaped these critics. After all, it was through Messi — almost single-handedly — that Argentina made it through to the knockout stages. It was Messi’s pass that set up Ángel di María for the late winner against Switzerland, putting the albiceleste into the quarterfinals.
But in the last two rounds, Messi has failed to score or assist. So naturally, the critics are back. And they’re likely taking their toll on the No. 10, wearing him down.
After a recent conversation with his son, Messi’s father Jorge told Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that he is suffering from extreme fatigue. “Leo said it looked like his legs weighed 100 kilos. He was very tired,” he said.
Someone should ask Messi whether his shoulders ache as well. After all, the slight forward is carrying not just his team, but the weight of a country’s expectations. Should Argentina fail to win on Sunday night, much of the blame will be piled on him.
However, should Messi be lifting the trophy at the end of all this, past criticism will be forgotten. He will truly be an Argentine hero, capable of taking his place alongside Diego Maradona. At that point, you can bet that he’ll forget all about the weight of his legs or how exhausted he felt going into the final match.