Lionel Messi has come just about as close to single-handedly carrying Argentina as any player can do in football. Messi scored four goals in the group play stage and has electrified his team, inspiring a nation to renewed hope of World Cup glory. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Lionel was recently named the “sixth best footballer ever” by Brazilian sports paper Lance! Considering the names in front of Lionel Messi’s – Pele, Garrincha, Romario, Ronaldo – the one from Brazil – and Maradona, that’s quite a compliment from Argentina’s neighbor and rival Brazil.
Lionel Messi has just about as much validation as any athlete could ask for. He was recently made the highest paid football player in the world and Barcelona has him sewn up in a contract that would make it more expensive to obtain his services than to fund a small army. He has won the FIFA Ballon d’Or as the world’s greatest footballer three times.
Jesus Christ once said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own home town.” Apparently, that holds true for footballers, too. Even footballers whose countrymen in Argentina refer to as “god.”
According to a report in Business Insider, football fans in Lionel Messi’s hometown of Rosario are not among his more avid fans. In fact, many people from Lionel’s home town are highly critical of the local boy-done-good.
Many of the people of Rosario have a hard time with the fact that Messi left his hometown – and their celebrated youth football team, Newell’s Old Boys – to play in Barcelona when he was 13 years old. The fact that Messi took the offer because Barcelona was willing to foot the bill to deal with Lionel’s expensive medical issues (he had a growth hormone disorder that cost about $750 per month to treat) isn’t enough to keep some from suggesting that Lionel Messi should have stayed and played his youth football for him home town team.
In addition to the sour grapes many fans of Rosario’s Old Boys have towards Lionel, Messi faces even stronger animosity from his old team’s cross-town rivals, Rosario Central. According to Business Insider, one local said:
“People from Newell’s are expecting Messi to be the best. People from Rosario Central are waiting for Messi to fail.”
Of course, if Lionel Messi is able to lead Argentina to a World Cup championship, all of that may be forgiven. As The Daily Mail quotes Jorge Valdano, a member of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup winning team concerning Lionel Messi:
“As in politics, in Argentina we are always looking for one man to save us. If Argentina win the World Cup, the people will crown him with laurels. Otherwise, they will put a crown of thorns on him.”
What do you think? Did Lionel Messi leave his home town too early or should the people of Rosario get over it and get behind their home town hero in the World Cup?