It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for Lionel Messi. The Argentine is out-of-contract at Barcelona and currently a free agent, with his future as clear as mud. 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.
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.
Nothing but respect for Neymar! Messi has been there 4 times ney! Greatest are those who stand tall after falling again and again! Ggs to Brazil for playing a mad 90 mins! And Neymar you have many years ahead of you! #CopaAmericaFINAL pic.twitter.com/KEPqiKgPjs
— AM. (@akm_theone) July 11, 2021
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.
— barcacentre (@barcacentres) July 11, 2021
Messi didn’t shine in the final but certainly did before it. He played 100% of Argentina’s minutes throughout the Copa America, earning himself the accolade of player-of-the-tournament. The Argentine scored four goals and contributed five assists in seven appearances, directly participating in 60% of their goals.
He shared a touching moment at the final whistle with Neymar, a close friend of his and a teammate from their time at Barcelona. The two embraced on the pitch and then shared a conversation, and a few laughs, in the tunnel post-game.