Doha: FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi, who had said the tournament in Qatar would be his last World Cup, but has now shown a change of heart over his possible retirement from international football.
On Sunday, the 35-year-old guided his country to its third title and his one following a 4-2 shootout win over France.
“I want to play a few more games as a world champion. I was lucky to clinch every title in my career; this was the only one missing. I want to take this one there (to Argentina) and enjoy it with everybody else,” said Messi, who won the Golden boot, becoming the first man to do so twice.
Messi opened the scoring for Argentina with a 23rd-minute penalty and also found the net in extra-time for the 3-2 in the 108th. Kylian Mbappe completed his hat-trick to take the game to a shootout, where Messi also scored.
Messi, having been named the Golden Ball winner eight years ago at Brazil 2014, when Argentina were edged 1-0 by Germany in the final, the 35-year-old twice looked poised for heartbreak again after Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick.
But after Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman’s spot-kick, Gonzalo Montiel’s decisive penalty ensured he claimed the greatest prize of all in his last World Cup game.
It means Messi emulates countryman Diego Maradona once more, too, with Maradona the player of the tournament in Argentina’s previous triumph 36 years ago.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner departs World Cup football after one of the most influential tournament performances of all time on a match-to-match basis, taking his total of Player of the Match wins to 11 across five tournaments.
He was named the Player of the Match in five games, including all of their prior knockout fixtures and the final, besting the record of four he previously jointly shared with the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder after his performances in 2014.