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.
Lionel Messi during the 2021 Copa América:
◉ =Most goals
◉ Most assists
◉ Most shots
◉ Most shots on target
◉ =Most chances created
◉ Most goals outside the box
◉ Most through balls
◉ Most accurate final ⅓ passes
Player of the Tournament again. Champion, finally. pic.twitter.com/O8RdsF1gUH
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) 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.
We’ve never seen a moment as pure from Messi as his celebrations tonight. This has been a vindication, whether that’s necessary or not. He’s ended a nigh-on 30-year drought, done what Maradona didn’t. This is his moment, at an age where he appreciates it. pic.twitter.com/kfjVeYBu6K
— Alan Feehely (@azulfeehely) July 11, 2021