As long as Lionel Messi continues to play on the wall with the happy corners of his childhood, he will always be able to behave like a true cartoon super champion. At 35 years old, he is the experienced one who hugs the young Enzo Fernández twice to celebrate the 2-0 win against Mexico and he is also the youngest of the Grandoli club in Rosario, with a competitive soul and an instinct to continue having fun with a ball attached to his foot.
The kid’s dreams are circular and paradoxical. Messi grew up in Barcelona, however, he never forgot his first idol on the poster: the ‘Clown’ Pablo Aimar, the same man who almost had a cardiac explosion yesterday after the moving penalty that Lionel repeats so often and that no one can avoid.
Aimar is part of Lionel Scaloni’s coaching staff and, on the substitute bench at the Lusail stadium, he starred in one of the iconic scenes of this first World Cup week. Messi had already scored 1-0 and Scaloni was looking to calm down the former River and Valencia midfielder, before his heart continued to jump like a countdown bomb.
In this, his last World Cup, the ‘Flea’ is focusing on closing circles. In his first celebration with Barcelona, in 2005, Ronaldinho carried him to present him to the world (a King announcing his successor, as in the jungle books). Now, Leo is the one who raises the youngest, like that carefree star named Enzo Fernández, a midfielder who will not leave the title in Argentina for many years.
-The ball is your friend-
A few weeks ago a video of the Super Champions that predicted the victory of Japan over Germany went viral. However, the creator of the anime, Yoichi Takahashi, based his stories more on the “monsters” from other countries that Japanese soccer had to imitate in the eighties and nineties. If Takahashi decided to rebuild a better version of Oliver Atom (Tsubasa Ozora), he would ask them to study all of Messi’s movements.
Just like the character from the well-remembered cartoon, Messi knew from a very young age that the only thing that would make him happy was playing with the ball. And returning to that child will always be good news for him. When we approached him for an interview in 2013, Lionel Messi was in a hurry. There were only minutes left for his private plane to take off for Qatar (in ’10 ′ he was going to sign one of his many million-dollar contracts with a Qatari telephone company). The only thing we did to stop him was to show him a cover of El Comercio with his photo at age 9, with the Newells Old Boys shirt, on the day he won his first international title (the Friendship Cup organized by the Cantolao Academy in 1996). Messi put away the dribbling and stopped to talk for almost twelve minutes. The almost faded image for so many years worked.
-Do you remember this photo Lionel? It’s when you played the 1997 Friendship Cup. Was it your first championship outside the country?
Of course I remember, if it wasn’t the first international championship it must have been one of the first. It is a nice memory.
-It was your first international tournament won.
It could be said that yes, they have been playing soccer for several years, but as a child there is always the memory of the first games won. Also, I was with a team that I love very much like Newell’s Old Boys.
– Are you going to retire with that shirt?
I have sometimes declared that I would love to at least play one more season there before retiring. But in football you can never get ahead.
-You were very young when Maradona retired from football. What was your first model player when you started in soccer?
The first player I admired was Pablo Aimar. I don’t have much of a memory to remember all the players I ever followed, but I do remember Aimar very well. He is the first one I mention when they ask me that question.
This version of Messi is more open to dialogue and shows his face at all times (he offered two post-match interviews to the international channel that has the rights to the event). Today he not only harangues in the locker room, but also offers support to prevent his teammates from collapsing. The first rival, on this afternoon of November 26, was not Mexico but the deluge of nerves. The painkiller was in his left foot, in that control to accommodate the ball to the expert Ochoa.
He is 35 years old, but he continues to repeat the wonderful plays of Pep’s Barcelona. He continues to have fun like when he scored goals to win a bicycle or like when he asked her grandmother to take him to the field (every celebration with his fingers to heaven is for her). His soccer soul lives in a constant flashback. It is perhaps one of the formulas of its validity. He child and big at the same time. Messi’s fate has those paradoxes. Now Aimar’s idol is him.