Copa America: Why Messi is still not in the same league as Maradona

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Argentina's Lionel Messi kisses the trophy after winning the Copa America final against Brazil. (AFP)
Argentina's Lionel Messi kisses the trophy after winning the Copa America final against Brazil. (AFP)

Dubai - In the eyes of the Argentinian public, Maradona is still the greatest player of all time


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Sun 11 Jul 2021, 9:02 PM

Last updated: Sun 11 Jul 2021, 9:17 PM

Like millions of Argentinians around the world, Jorge Ferrari was glued to the TV at his Sharjah residence, desperately hoping for a reversal of fortunes when the Lionel Messi-led Argentina locked horns with Neymar’s Brazil for the Copa America trophy at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil had never lost a competitive match at the iconic stadium since suffering that stunning defeat to underdogs Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final.

For Argentina, it had been a miserable 28-year trophy drought, dotted with painful defeats to bitter rivals Brazil in the Copa knockout games (2004, 2007 and 2019).

And, of course, there was also the small matter of Messi, the most famous Argentinian footballer after Diego Maradona, winning an international trophy.

When the wait for the mouthwatering clash was finally over, Argentina started with a dash of aggression, winning the midfield battle in a scrappy game before Angel Di Maria’s wonderful lob hit the back of the net in the 22nd minute.

But the goal failed to calm the nerves of Jorge Ferrari, the Sharjah-based Argentinian photographer who had been dealing with heartbreaking failures of his national team for almost three decades.

“I was watching in the television, but I was also listening to the Spanish commentary in Argentinian radio,” Ferrari said.

“And even the commentators at the end of the first half (with Argentina leading 1-0), were nervous, saying that it was too early to think about an Argentina victory. You know there have been too many failures in the past. Nobody was able to relax until the final whistle.”

The final whistle ended Argentina’s 28 years of pain as Messi dropped to his knees, shedding tears of joy for the first time in national colours.

The unforgettable victory sparked wild celebrations in Argentina.

“In Argentina there are very tough restrictions due to Covid-19, but everybody came out to the streets,” Ferrari said.

“In all the major cities, there were big crowds in the streets. They didn’t care about Covid.”

While the global media has now put the debate over the greatest player in history to rest after Messi’s first success on the international stage, Ferrari says the 34-year-old striker would never be in same league as Maradona in the eyes of the Argentinian public.

“We finally have a picture of Messi with an international trophy. He deserved it. But in Argentina, to be considered in the league of Maradona, he has to win at least two World Cups,” Ferrari smiled.

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