As fireworks exploded and some 80,000 people roared, Lionel Messi smiled. His Argentina soccer shirt covered by the bisht the Emir of Qatar had just draped him in – the cape reserved for top officials and sheikhs. He smiled, he paused, then he hoisted high the World Cup, a lifetime’s dream realised.
For all the accolades, all the awards, the riches, titles and silverware, there had been one stain on his career resume, and it was one he erased forever on a magical World Cup night for Argentina.
“It’s anyone’s childhood dream,” Messi said. “I was lucky to have achieved everything in this career… and this one that was missing is here.
“It’s madness… look how she (the World Cup) is, she’s gorgeous. I wanted her so much. I had a vision that this would be the one… she was getting closer.”
On this patch of green in the Qatari desert all that mattered to the 35-year-old was to deliver the much-yearned-for World Cup to Argentina, and he did so with a virtuoso performance against defending champions France in what transpired to be a final for the ages.
The following is a look at Argentina captain Lionel Messi’s career by the numbers:
499 million: Global followers on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram (over 10 times the population of Argentina)
$120 million: Messi’s estimated earnings for the 2022-23 season before taxes and agents’ fees, according to Forbes.
$26.60 million: Messi’s estimated transfer value, according to Swiss research group CIES Football Observatory.
2,194: Minutes played in the World Cup. Only Paolo Maldini of Italy has played more (2,217)
853: Club matches for Barcelona B, Barcelona, and Paris St Germain
701: Club goals for Barcelona B, Barcelona, and Paris St Germain
171: International caps
96: International goals
37: Club trophies won
25: Matches played at the World Cup (joint record with Lothar Matthaeus)
18: Appearances as captain in the World Cup — a record
16: World Cup match victories (Miroslav Klose has 17)
16 years: The gap between his first and latest World Cup goals
10: Player of the match awards (first given in 2002)
11: World Cup goals (Argentine record)
7: Ballons d’Or
6: Men to have played in five World Cups Messi, Matthaeus, Antonio Carbajal, Rafa Marquez, Andres Guardado and Cristiano Ronaldo)
6: Assists in the knockout phase of World Cups
5: World Cups played in and assisted in
2: World Cup finals
1: Copa America trophy
0: World Cup winners’ medals
(With inputs from Reuters)