In many peoples’ opinion, Lionel Messi has to win a World Cup to be considered in the class of Diego Maradona and Pele.
And on Sunday night, the Barcelona wizard had his opportunity to join those two great names as World Champions.
However, it was not to be as Argentina failed to score and lost the match after a late extra-time goal by Mario Goetze, handing Germany a 1-0 win.
After the game, Messi was presented with the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament but his disappointment was written all over his face.
Here, we review the impact that Messi had on the game and where it all went wrong.
A Lack Of Dominance In Possession
One of Messi’s main attributes is that he does not give the ball away cheaply. For Barcelona, he is the fulcrum of the attack, whether that comes from him in a false-nine position or further out wide.
But against Germany, Messi was ineffective overall. He made his way out to the wide right on many occasions to try and stretch the European team’s back four, but he lacked the zip we are used to seeing from him.
However, there were flashes of inspiration in the first half with a couple of speedy runs by the player. He breezed past Mats Hummels into the penalty area early in the contest, and it felt that this could be Messi’s final.
But there was little more than this from the genius with the ball at his feet as the German defence stiffened and stopped him being afforded the extra room to operate.
During the final, Messi only had 66 touches of the ball, with a passing accuracy of just 70 percent.
These are not the figures of a player who is supposed to be the greatest on the planet.
It was a disappointing statistical return for Messi when his country needed him to play the match of his life.
Messi’s poor performance was compounded by the fact that he controversially won the Golden Ball after the game.
And Maradona professed his opinion about this, as tweeted by The Guardian’s Ian McCourt:
The sentiment behind Maradona’s words is correct, and Messi being named player of the tournament was strange, especially when you consider that several on the German team arguably had better performances overall.
But the final proved that maybe Messi is no longer the force many believe he is. When he had to deliver at the correct moment, as he has done for his club on so many occasions, he could not come up with the goods.
One Opportunity, One Miss
In the second half of the World Cup final, Messi had a fantastic opportunity to win the game for Argentina and missed.
He was fed through to the left-hand side of the box and just had Manuel Neuer to beat.
And beat him he did―but he also put the ball six inches wide of the post. The failure shows the short margins that are involved in the sport.
It was the type of chance that we have seen Messi finish hundreds of times during his illustrious career, but when you are not at your best, it is the type of opportunity you spurn.
It was evident that the player was not going to get many more chances of a free shot on goal after the incident, and he will always look back at that moment with disappointment.
Gonzalo Higuain also missed a similar chance early in the first half, pulling his shot wide when it was easier to hit the target.
Argentina managed 10 shots in the game, with nine of them ending up off target.
This was the story of Messi and his team’s game, and they will rue the great chances that they allowed to slip through their fingers.
Messi could have punished Germany, but he was not the clinical player we have seen in years gone by.
Messi Lacks Maradona’s Brilliant Arrogance
The element that made Maradona so great compared to his rivals in his career was that he truly believed he was the match decider.
And you could not believe on Sunday night that Messi felt this against the Germans.
For the player, it seems to be a question of confidence as he looked as fit as he has at any point in the past year.
Maradona would come deep to collect the ball and run at the defence, and this is something Messi has done over the years for Barca.
But in the final, he seemed unable to face up to the German midfield and take control.
No one will ever fully know the reasons why this happened as it did, but it was clear to see that a lack of general belief might have been the issue. But at 27 years old, Messi will get one more chance to win a World Cup for Argentina, when the tournament returns to Europe.
However, the question now is have we seen Messi peak as a player, and will his decline begin now? The 2014-15 season will offer the player a chance at redemption, and despite winning the Golden Ball, his reputation has taken a knock.
Stats via WhoScored unless otherwise noted.