Lionel Messi’s viral speech gives a rare look at his leadership style

DOHA, Qatar – Before every match in Argentina, Lionel Messi gathers his teammates in the center of the dressing room. They stand in a tight circle, arms around each other’s shoulders, heads bowed in the middle, and there they wait for a moment for Messi to speak.

He’s a quiet man, the captain – private and unbothered – but when he speaks, they all listen. He does so with strong positive vibes, but the message is usually inspiring without being sentimental, calm, and thoughtful.

Wasn’t it one time? Well, this is the thing they all remember.

To be on the locker room wall for Sunday’s World Cup final between Argentina and France (coverage starts at 9am ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) at Lusail Stadium would be a rare privilege, but if we were to guess at how Messi could address his players before the biggest Match in their lives, there is an expressive precedent, easily captured on video.

Never imagining Messi as a brash catalyst from the “Braveheart” school for pre-match pep talks, Messi ramped things up ahead of the 2021 Copa América final in Argentina, the match that will finally hand him a major trophy with his country after 15 years. years of trying.

“We already know we’re from Brazil,” he began. “I’m not going to say more on that. I’d like to thank you all for the past 45 days, boys. I said it on my birthday (16 days ago), that’s a great bunch, a nice bunch.”

The footage wasn’t revealed until November of this year, as part of the Netflix documentary, “Sean Eternos: Campeones de America,” which focused on that campaign. It was enlightening.

Because there was Messi, the brilliant individualist, the man who at the 2014 World Cup was a leader in name only when Javier Mascherano was pretending to be a soldier, suddenly transformed into a belligerent captain while his teammates stood in awe.

He continued, “It has been 45 days of hard work, and we have not complained about travel, food, hotels, playgrounds, or anything.” “Forty-five days without seeing our families. Forty-five days. The Depo (Goalkeeper Amy Martinez) became a father and he couldn’t even see his new baby, and why? Because of this moment boys.”

There was more, and we’ll get to it. But he said a lot about Messi, whose private nature often led to misunderstandings. Keep in mind that Argentina have two all-time greats in football over the past 50 years. That, in and of itself, is great, but it was only natural to compare Messi to Diego Maradona, who died in 2020, and the comparisons were unfair.

Maradona was a natural showman who loved the noise and the lights whether that was on or off the pitch, a man who lived big and played more. Messi has always felt more comfortable showing his full flair during matches, but has kept things on a low profile at other times.

Often, the burden of trying to achieve international success for his country was stifling. By the time of the Copa América final, in Brazil and against Brazil, he was finally ready to let go of those years of frustration.

“We had a goal, we’re one step closer to achieving it, and the best thing about it is that it’s in our hands,” he said in a high voice as the group hung on their every word. “So, we’re going to go out there and lift the trophy, and we’re going to take it back to Argentina and enjoy it with our family, our friends with everyone who’s always supported Argentina.”

Can Lionel Messi lift Argentina?

Can Lionel Messi lift Argentina?

Alexi Lalas and David Moss discuss whether Lionel Messi will lead Argentina to the great World Cup.

In this tournament, Argentina could not have started worse, being defeated by Saudi Arabia in the opening match in one of the greatest World Cup shocks ever. It doesn’t matter in the end. In fact, it may have been a necessary wake-up call.

They bounced back to beat Mexico and Poland, overtake Australia, hold out against the Netherlands on penalties and were too many for Croatia in the semifinals.

And behold, the biggest challenge of them all against the defending champions in the final, where Messi had the chance to climb two rungs in football’s eternal pantheon by adding the only trophy he eludes.

He looked ready, and you can bet he’s ready, at 35 and in his last World Cup game, to go out with the ball. In order to prevail, he’ll need his teammates to do the same, and for that you can bet he’ll be looking for something to motivate them, some indication that fate is shining the lights on them.

Lionel Messi: Every touch in the semi-finals

Lionel Messi: Every touch in the semi-finals

Watch every time Lionel Messi touched the ball in Argentina’s semi-final victory over Croatia.

In the Copa America, he took advantage of the fact that the tournament was originally scheduled for Argentina, before moving to Brazil due to the global pandemic, as evidence that it was meant to be.

Who knows what momentum snippets he’ll call this time? But as one of the greatest creative minds in football history, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find an updated version to make his players scream with supportive expectations. Just like they did in 2021, when he said…

“I want to end with this. Coincidences do not exist. This tournament should have been held in Argentina and do you know why? Because God brought it here. So, we won here at the Maracana (the stadium) for all of us. So let’s go out with confidence, with our heads calm, and let’s win.” With this cup. Come guys!”

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX And the Subscribe to our daily newsletter.

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