Argentina Lost at the World Cup, but Lionel Messi Is Still the Best Player in the World


Minutes after the end of the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany on Sunday, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi received one of the most prestigious individual trophies in world soccer — the Golden Ball — and yet couldn't have looked less happy.

Messi didn't smile for the cameras, didn't acknowledge the hands of the fans reaching out to touch him and didn't even hold on to the trophy for long. All he did was rub his nose, slump his shoulders and lower his head as he walked down the stadium stairs. The instant Messi returned to the field, he thrust the award into the hands of an assistant, surely all but forgetting about the honor.

But who could blame him?

Sunday's game — the one Messi had said would be the most important of his life — had been a failure. Though the Argentine defense had frustrated Germany like no other team in Brazil, Argentina had lost, 1-0. Despite playing for all 120 minutes, Messi only touched the ball 66 times, the second-lowest number in all of Argentina's seven World Cup games.

The Twittersphere and ESPN commentator Steve McManaman seemed to agree that Messi wasn't deserving of the Golden Ball trophy.

"In the quarterfinal, in the semifinal and in the final he hasn't lit up the stage,” McManaman said.

Argentina legend Diego Maradona even called the award a marketing ploy done to appease Messi's sponsor, Adidas, which also happened to sponsor the trophy.

Those who agreed with the Golden Ball voters pointed to the facts that Messi both created more chances and won more "Man of the Match" awards than any other player in the tournament. He also scored four goals and converted a penalty kick in his team's semifinal shootout. No player can be expected to dominate every match, especially when his most inventive offensive teammate, Angel Di Maria, is injured for the final two games.

Regardless of which side of the argument you are on, Messi showed us during this past month why he is one of the greatest players of all time. If Messi is to win the World Cup title his astounding résumé sorely lacks, he will have to wait at least four more years.

In the meantime, here is a look at nine of reasons why Messi is still the best player in the world.

1. He can single-handedly save his team from embarrassment.

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2. Odds are, he'll find the right pass.

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3. The video of his 371 career goals for Barcelona is 41 minutes long.

4. He knows how to find the top corners.

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5. His chips are delightful.

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6. He doesn't dive.

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7. He has won four Ballon d'Or trophies — and hasn't pouted when he hasn't won.

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8. He has helped Barcelona win six La Liga titles and three Champions League titles.

9. He will still only be 30 years old at the 2018 World Cup.