KAZAN: The war was over. The ruins of Argentinian dreams lay strewn across the Kazan Arena where new songs were being sung in the name of Kylian Mbappe.
ALSO READ: Messi’s last chance for national glory slips away in Kazan
Benjamin Mendy was the first to walk up to Lionel Messi to shake hands. He was followed by Kylian Mbappe, and then the whole French team, as if it was his last outing in an Argentina shirt.
ALSO READ: FIFA World Cup: France beat Argentina 4-3 to enter quarters
Messi wiped his face and kept looking at the debris around him. The woebegone look on his face is somewhat common now. Losses are coming thick and fast with Argentina, and Messi understands that his waning powers are not enough to turn defeat into victory.
Hands on his hips, he looked at the French celebration. It could have been his, had he got a better team perhaps. He also could have replied to Diego Maradona and settled once and for all the debate that will chase him till kingdom come.
In Messi’s religion, despair is considered sin but it wells up inside in days like this when a teenager reminds you that the time has come to yield place to the new.
Didier Deschamps came and gave him a hug and ruffled his hair. Just to say, not in words, “You have been a delight”. Messi patted his back. Around him his teammates were in mourning.
For 14 long years, Messi had been creating, conjuring memories in the blue and white shirt in search of that elusive title, the World Cup.
Four years ago, he came the closest to touch his heaven till Mario Goetze snatched it away from Argentina’s grasp.
Shattered at the Maracana, Messi picked himself up to give it another shot, cheated by the emotional outburst of his fellow citizens. But Billy Rose is a lone rider. And Messi suffered like all lonely riders. No one knows what will happen four years down the line. Messi will be 34 then. It is unlikely that he will choose to endure a fifth denial.
The World Cup remains Messi’s unrequited love. In Russia, another bastion feel. Such is destiny.