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The last tango: The great soccer players are classified into two lists: those who lifted the maximum trophy and those who did not

Leo Messi faces the most important semester of his career. It will be for three reasons. The first is that he is facing his last chance to be world champion. The second is that after about fifteen years he will again have a role, let’s say, secondary, in his club. The third is that he will have to digest everything at 35 years old. Let’s start with the last.

As any fan knows, football maturity in a field player is reached between 25 and 32 years old; with archers time is more benign. There are examples and counterexamples, but they only confirm the pattern. No one expects a crack to give his best after the age of Christ, just as no one expects a goalkeeper to be at his best at 20. The physique does not respond the same, the preseason has another cost, the head learns to dose resources, it loses explosion, there is less sprint but more field reading, etc.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a great example of fighting against the schedule: he rearranged his position and looked for the forcefulness of the area above the deployment. But the Portuguese did it from the athletic strength… In the case of Messi, the path is not obvious: will it be a more traditional ’10’? Will he relocate as second striker? will you search the area? Be that as it may, the Argentine’s numbers in the last year (0.32 goals per game, his worst stat since 2005-06), force him to answer these questions if he seeks to maintain his validity.

The adaptation to PSG has also had a conditioning factor: due to the club’s model, stardom in Paris is always shared. Neymar, in disgrace for indiscipline and performance, is no longer a counterweight; but Mbappé, recently renewed, is the undoubted figure. In France they are clear about it and that is why the young Frenchman occupied the central position in the presentation of the new shirt for the 2022-23 season, which at another time would have been an insult for a star who competes to be the best of all the time. It is very rare to see the ’10’ of the Argentine team as an escort, but at the same time inevitable. What remains to be seen is how his exceptionality will manifest itself now that, on a day-to-day basis, a supporting role is demanded of him.

On the other hand, where Messi will have to be the absolute protagonist is with his national team. Argentina looks in great shape after a long time, not only in play but also in results: with 33 games undefeated, Scaloni has achieved the most important streak of the albiceleste in history to the point that it begins to compete, in the statistical tables, with teams legendary, like the world champion Spain or the Brazil of the nineties. But for that you need to win the World Cup. There is no better challenge for Messi, because Qatar will be the last chance he has to win the most elusive cup, the only one he lacks.

The great footballers are classified into two lists: that of those who lifted the maximum trophy and that of those who, for different reasons (country, injury, age, situation), did not. In both there are idols, but Pelé and Maradona are in the first. If Messi aspires to compete in that ranking, he has one final chance. In his famous documentary, Michael Jordan called that window of opportunity that opens at the end of a sports career “The Last Dance”; for obvious reasons, in the case of the Argentinian, it would be better to refer to it as “The last tango”.

Source: Elcomercio

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