Almost one year after Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup trophy for Argentina in Qatar, the Inter Miami CF star revisited the complicated path to the title and expressed his satisfaction at turning criticism into praise in his country.
In an interview for the “Champions, a Year Later” special on Disney Star+, Messi said one of his top triumphs from winning the World Cup and Copa América with Argentina is having the “beautiful feeling” of being loved by “95% or 100% of Argentines.”
“I had a bad time. My family and the people who love me did too. [Critics in Argentina] were very unfair to a generation of players and they said a lot of bad things about me. I’m not spiteful,” Messi said.
“I feel it like a triumph for me to have changed that situation and won over all the people of Argentina. Today 95% or 100% of Argentines love me and that’s a beautiful feeling.”
Messi made his debut for Argentina in 2005, but his first title in a major tournament came in 2021 after beating Brazil in the Copa América final. In between came some heartbreaking defeats, including ones at the 2011 and 2016 Copa América tournaments and a shocking round-of-16 loss to France at the 2018 World Cup. In the 18 months after winning the Copa América, he led the Albiceleste to the Finalissima trophy at Wembley Stadium in London and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Messi said he was fortunate to be so beloved at Barcelona and it was his biggest dream to win the World Cup.
“It is the thing most everyone desires. Everyone dreams big and the biggest is to be world champion with your national team. I was lucky to achieve everything at the club level with Barcelona and also at the individual level. This was the only thing that eluded me. There are very few players who can say that they have achieved everything and thanks to God I am one of them,” Messi said.
“If you put in the effort, sacrifice, work and humility, in the end, you achieve your goals,” he added. “The road can be hard, but you have to keep fighting for your dreams to try to achieve them. I always loved playing football, coming to the national team and being on the field, but I never enjoyed it like today.”