There was nothing ambiguous about Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, however, as the 34-year-old lifted his first trophy as captain of Argentina.
Congratulations to @Argentina on winning Copa America. A major tournament success for Messi after so many near misses and such a long wait. He’s been preposterously good in this tournament and another Balón d’Or is a given. The undisputed 🐐 world football.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) July 11, 2021
The decisive goal came in the 22nd minute; Rodrigo de Paul, close to joining Atletico Madrid according to the rumour mill, threaded through an excellent ball to find ex-Real Madrid man Angel di Maria, who finished coolly past Ederson.
Messi, a free-agent following the expiration of his contract with Barcelona, squandered a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 late on, but he won’t mind. He’s landed his holy grail.
¡EL MOMENTO TAN ESPERADO! Pitazo final y así lo gritó Lionel Messi 🔟🇦🇷🤩
— Copa América (@CopaAmerica) July 11, 2021
Messi played 100% of Argentina’s minutes throughout the Copa America, winning player-of-the-tournament. He scored four goals and contributed five assists in seven appearances, directly participating in 60% of their goals.
The moment the final whistle went was special, and underlined what it meant to the Argentine; it could be considered the crowning moment of an absolutely spectacular career.