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 for 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. They [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 the next 18 months, he led the Albiceleste to the Finalissima trophy in Wembley and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In between came some heartbreaking losses, including ones at the 2011 and 2016 Copa América tournaments and a shocking round of 16 loss to France at the 2018 World Cup.
Messi said it was difficult to understand how he was so beloved in Barcelona and vilified in Argentina.
“I didn’t question why they [some Argentina fans] didn’t want me. I saw how they attacked me from many places. I was living in two opposite realities. In Barcelona, winning often and having full support, love and respect from everyone. In Argentina, it was a totally different situation with criticism everywhere,” 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.”