Argentina's Lionel Messi missed a great opportunity to prove he is one of the greatest players of all time in Sunday's World Cup final against Germany. Mario Goetze's 113th minute strike denied Argentina as Germany became the first European team to win a World Cup in Latin America. But Messi did not go home empty handed. He won the FIFA Golden Ball, given to the most influential player of the tournament.
For all the breath-taking goals and teeming towers of silverware he has accumulated with Barcelona, it is in the World Cup final that the true greats confirm their legacies. From a 17-year-old Pele in 1958 to Andres Iniesta in 2010, via Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldo, football's biggest personalities have bent the sport's biggest occasion to their will. Even though Messi failed to win the World Cup, he left his mark with four goals in a high-scoring championship. (Lionel Messi Vomits During World Cup final)
Messi's record-breaking brilliance over the last six seasons at Camp Nou cannot be understated, but until he wins the World Cup, he will never fully stand the comparisons. (Super Mario Goetze, Germany's World Cup Winner)
In the words of Roberto Rivellino, one of the stars of Brazil's 1970 World Cup-winning side: "If Argentina win, he'll be up there with Pele and Maradona, no doubt." Messi will now have to wait for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. (Messi squanders chance to join greats)
Maradona, in particular, was defined by his World Cup performances and at 27, Messi could not ask for a more perfect chance to emulate his predecessor in the sky-blue and white number 10 shirt.
Maradona was almost marked out of the 1986 final by West Germany, only to create the winning goal for Jorge Burruchaga, but while he had already dominated the tournament, Messi will have to wait for a signature display.
(With agency inputs)