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The stellar 31-year-old Argentinian player accumulates 15 years in the Catalan club, but his influence goes beyond the titles
Some compare it with other soccer legends like Pelé, Diego Armando Maradona, Johan Cruyff or Franz Beckenbauer, others —among which I include myself— think that Lionel Messi is at least at the same level of those mentioned. His goals, his influence in the last 34 titles of Barcelona and, above all, his fidelity to the shirt and the club distinguish him in the Olympus of world soccer. FC Barcelona can already divide its history into a before and after of this 'Little Giant'.
Leer en español: Lionel Messi: un legado en Barcelona más allá del fútbol
In October 2004, Messi began his journey with Barcelona and today, 15 years and 600 goals later, we want to not only highlight what the numbers of this fantastic soccer player say, both with the 'culés' and with the Argentinian National Team, but also what loyalty means when you are trying to leave legacy. This has been done in the style of other similar players like Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) or Francesco Totti (Rome), to mention two of the best known that never played in another club in Europe.
Messi, in addition, has the positive precedent that he preferred to defend the colors of his country of origin knowing that he had the possibility of strengthening Spain and winning many more titles in national teams with them than with the Argentinian shirt, as facts have demonstrated so far. Far from criticizing him for not winning anything with the Senior Team (he is world champion sub20 and gold medal in Athens 2004 with his nation), we must also praise the one who preferred to follow the hardest way when he could have also chosen the easiest one: Spain, at that time.
An indelible legacy
When the Argentinian reached the first team of Barcelona, Real Madrid had a considerable advantage over his archrival with 72 titles against 61 of the 'Blaugranas'. Barcelona was always a team of respect in Spain, but always far from Real Madrid and, today, that difference has been shortened. 15 years later, it is Barcelona who leads in the department of total titles with 95 against 92 of Real Madrid, this without including the possibility that the 'culés' extend the difference to 96-92 if they win the Copa del Rey against Valencia.
In times like this, in which mercantilism prevails over being faithful to a team's shirt, Messi also preferred to stay in Barcelona and, although the situation is different from that of Argentina —the easy way would be to stay in Barcelona because of the structure that implies the club—, he has remained faithful even in the most difficult moments, as when Rome left them out of the Champions League a year ago with a score of 3-0 on the return, amid criticism of his lack of leadership compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, king of Europe.
I put myself in the shoes of a fan and, although Barcelona is not my favorite club in Europe, I always like it more than Real Madrid, but I must say that in the eighties, when I started watching soccer when I was 8 or 9 years old, the 'Blaugrana' team did not overshadow Real Madrid, despite always being behind the merengue team.
Before Lio, Barcelona had only raised one European Cup, the one in 1992 when they won the Sampdoria final, and since his arrival there have been four awards in this competition: 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015. I also attest that there were not as many fans or Barcelona shirts as now. Much less it was a team as respected in Europe as it is now. When Messi leaves, the wound will be deep and we will miss him as soccer fans, but above all, we will continue to applaud his legacy: loyalty to a club, putting a team on the map of the elite and increasing the team fans.
LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano
Translated from "Lionel Messi: un legado en Barcelona más allá del fútbol"