Rio de Janeiro: Lionel Messi on Monday revealed the full depth of his anger and devastation at failing to crown his career by winning Sunday’s World Cup final amid a bizarre row about him being awarded the tournament’s ‘golden ball’.
Just minutes after Germany had beaten Argentina to become the first European nation to lift the World Cup on South American soil, a clearly distraught Messi was obliged to collect the individual Fifa award for the best player of the competition.
The ‘golden ball’ decision was made by Fifa’s supposedly expert technical study group but there was still general shock that it did not go to either Colombia’s James Rodriguez or one of Germany’s new team of world champions.
Messi said that the award meant “nothing” as he digested the cost of missing a clear chance to win the World Cup for Argentina in the second half of Sunday’s final. There is a theory that Messi can never reach the same elevated status in football as Pele or Maradona without winning the World Cup and, given that he will be in his 30s by the time of the tournament in Russia in 2018, his best chance may now have passed.
“I’m very hurt at not being able to bring the Cup to Argentina,” Messi said. “I am very angry at the way we lost, so close to the penalties, especially as we had the best chances. I do not care about the ‘golden ball’. I am just upset by the wasted chances.
“We had the best chances, with (Gonzalo) Higuain, mine and (Rodrigo) Palacios. We knew we could not dominate the game but we knew what we wanted to do. “Right now I do not care nothing, not about my prize, nothing. I just wanted to lift the cup and bring it to Argentina. The pain is very great.
“I have been through many sad days with this team. This was our chance to change all that. We deserved more. They had more of the ball but the best chances were ours.”
Maradona on Monday dismissed the ‘golden ball’ award to his compatriot as a “marketing plan” while Fifa president Sepp Blatter even admitted that he did not expect Messi to win the prize. Fifa may now change how the award is judged. The other short-listed players were Rodriguez, Neymar, Angel di Maria, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Javier Mascherano, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben.
“Lio is worthy of all the praise – he is the best but when judges award you something you do not deserve to win, it’s unfair,” Maradona said. “I saw it as I did and he was not the best of the tournament. That should have been James Rodriguez.
“I would give him (Messi) heaven if possible. But it’s not right when someone wins something that he shouldn’t have won just because of some marketing plan,” he said.
The award used to be voted in conjunction with the media and that may be resumed after the fall-out this year. “There was a long discussion,’’ a Fifa spokesman said. “The decision was by the technical study group. Maybe it will change again. Maybe it will not have so much weight given to the technical group. We’re open to suggestions. You can make your own opinion on Messi.’’