A Messi legacy?

Should Lionel Messi’s record be tarnished by Argentina’s failure to win a major tournament?

Lionel Messi has turned his back on international football. Larry W Smith / EPA
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Can Lionel Messi claim true greatness? With his unexpected retirement from international football following Argentina's loss to Chile in the Copa America final, will his reputation as one of the greatest to have played the game be compromised, leaving him a rung lower than players sucs as Pelé and Maradona and alongside similarly thwarted footballers such as Johan Cruyff?

That would be a particularly harsh judgment. For all the adulation lavished on its stars, football is at heart a team game. As the saying goes, a champion team will always beat a team of champions and the tactical nature of the modern game means a single player’s brilliance might not fix the deficiencies of the team.

So should Messi languish with a metaphorical asterisk next to his name? We say his personal ability is best reflected in his record as the only footballer in history to win five Fifa Ballons d’Or, the top male footballing award, even if his unimpeachable individual skills did not lead his country to similar heights.