Most likely to be his final World Cup, Lionel Messi says he is determined to give everything to finally land football’s most coveted trophy.
The Argentina captain, 35, has moved into the twilight of his incredible career, and earlier this year said Qatar 2022 would probably be his global finals swansong.
Messi has never been part of an Argentine side to lift the World Cup, coming closest in 2014 when his team lost 1-0 in the final to Germany in Brazil.
On Monday, on the eve of Argentina’s Group C opener against Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium, the 2021 Copa America winner said: "It is probably my last World Cup, my last chance to land this great dream that we all have.
"I don't know if this is my happiest moment, but I feel great. I'm older, more mature, I want to make the most of everything, to live it with the maximum intensity and to enjoy every moment that I have.
"Today I'm enjoying everything much more. Before I didn't think about that. Age makes you see things differently and makes the little details more important; those that before you didn't give much importance to."
Messi, who is about to embark on his fifth World Cup, is currently enjoying a stellar season with Paris Saint-Germain. Thus, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner comes into the tournament in seemingly peak form, with Argentina riding a 36-game win streak, too.
However, there had been concern Messi had picked up a potentially troublesome injury in last week’s friendly against the UAE in Abu Dhabi.
Since arriving in Doha, he had twice trained away from the rest of the squad.
Yet, on Monday, Messi told reporters at the pre-match press conference: "I trained apart because I had a knock; it was precautionary, but nothing unusual.”
Meanwhile, Saudi manager Herve Renard said he is relishing the challenge facing his side in going up against Messi. At the last World Cup, in 2018, the Frenchman’s Morocco team took on another modern great, in Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It's an honour to come up against the best players on the planet," Renard said on Monday. "Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are football legends and thanks to them, football has changed.
"It's an honour to be here and an honour to play against them. But when you compete you have to put all your energy and motivation into trying to topple the best.
“That's what's beautiful about sport: sometimes you get surprises."