Messi Has Been Invited to the Olympics. Agreeing Could Cost the Argentine National Team Dearly
Leo has already won gold at the Olympic Games in 2008, and now the younger generation may be deprived of this chance.
The head coach of the Argentine Olympic team and former long-time partner of Lionel Messi at Barcelona and the national team, Javier Mascherano, officially invited his friend to the 2024 Games in Paris. Recall that Argentina recently successfully passed the qualification stage, leaving the Brazilians behind, and is now going to Paris as one of the favorites. However, as always.
Immediately after the qualification, Mascherano stated the following in an interview with ESPN:
«Everyone knows the relationship we have with Leo, my friendship with him. A player like him could be with us at the Olympics; further decisions will depend on him and his desire.»
Of course, there is a desire to respect the career of an old friend and give him a chance to become a two-time Olympic champion. But is it worth risking the game, and will Mascherano not spoil the fun of his team by introducing an aging veteran, albeit one of such a level? The apparent advantage of having Messi is his level and authority. He and Mascherano equally understand football, so Leo will be an ideal conduit for the coach's ideas for young players on the field. But there are many more negatives.
First, Messi could easily overshadow the youth with his authority instead of showing leadership functions. Leo is different from the type who leads the team in difficult times, especially if he doesn't know them well. In this regard, Cristiano Ronaldo is advantageous compared to his eternal opponent. Cristiano doesn't care who he plays with. Yes, he will try to boost his own statistics, but his teammates will also be motivated.
Secondly, players under the age of 23 participate in the Games. Each team can have up to three players older than this age. Conclusion: football at the Olympics is primarily fast-paced, so 38-year-old Messi may not keep up with his teammates. And since he is not mainly known for his defensive actions, Argentina will play with fewer players during the opponent's attacks. And Leo's motivation could also be problematic. If he lacked the title of Olympic champion, then a trip to Paris could still be understandable. Still, Messi won gold at the Olympics in 2008. Why he needs a second one is not entirely clear, as the title of Olympic champion does not come with an "ex" prefix.
There's a third point. Messi's victories with the national team are usually hard-fought. His biography has numerous finals but only three wins if we count Beijing. He only managed to get the Copa America gold on his fifth attempt, after three silver medals and one bronze. And Argentina's performance at the World Cup in Qatar started with a defeat to Saudi Arabia. Then, there was a triumph despite everything. By the way, Ronaldo faces the same trouble. Portugal was supposed to lose Euro 2016. Still, Cristiano forced them to do so almost by the power of his mind. Notably, in both finals, the French suffered from the Portuguese and the Argentines.
In general, there is a suspicion that Messi's invitation from Mascherano is not even a noble gesture but pure publicity. And the football legend will most likely politely decline. After November 2022, Leo needs a much more weighty argument to go to a major tournament than participating out of an old friendship with the coach. The beautiful fairy tale ended with the World Cup in Qatar. You need to know when to stop to not become a burden for the team and be remembered as great.
Published by Patrick Jane