Lionel Messi emerged from the shadow of his fellow Argentinian ‘phenomenon’ Diego Maradona by leading his country to World Cup glory, says 1994 runner-up Arrigo Sacchi.
Messi clinched the World Cup Golden Ball after producing a series of talismanic displays in Qatar, scoring seven goals and adding three assists during a dream campaign.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner scored twice in Sunday’s thrilling final against France, also converting in the subsequent penalty shoot-out as he became the first Albiceleste captain to lift the trophy since Maradona in 1986.
Sacchi, whose great Milan side battled with Maradona’s Napoli in the 1980s, refused to compare the two Argentina greats but was delighted to see Messi replicate his compatriot’s success.
“When Messi raised the World Cup to the sky, his eyes were wet with tears,” Sacchi, who led Italy to the 1994 final, wrote in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I thought of Leo’s entire journey, of what he won with Barcelona, of his dribbling, of his goals, of his acrobatics, of the many Ballon d’Ors he placed on the bulletin board.
“Then, however, there was that sort of curse which he could not shrug off. Too often he was forced to play with the shadow of Maradona weighing on his shoulders.
2 – Only two players have both scored 5+ goals and created 20+ chances in atournament (since 1966):
Diego Maradona in 1986
Lionel Messi in 2022
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe)
“Too often they asked him what he could not give, and then he felt sad. He felt the responsibility to give happiness to an entire people and the fact of not succeeding in it pained him.
“Now all of Argentina is at his feet. I don’t feel like saying whether or not he has reached Maradona’s level.
“I don’t agree with these comparisons between champions who belong to different eras of football.
“What I know is that Maradona was a phenomenon, and I knew him well, and I know that Messi is too, albeit in a different way.”