Lionel Messi promised he would play on for Argentina to experience “a few more games being world champion” after inspiring their triumph in Qatar.
The World Cup belongs to Messi and Argentina after Sunday’s spectacular final that saw Kylian Mbappe hit a hat-trick for France but still end up on the losing side.
A 4-2 victory on penalties after a 3-3 draw gave Argentina their third World Cup success, after lifting the trophy in 1978 and 1986, and means Messi’s final appearance on the biggest stage of all ended in a fairy tale manner.
It was the trophy he had been striving to win before the end of his career, and the 35-year-old finished the tournament with seven goals and three assists, becoming the first player to score in every round and the group stage.
He took the Golden Ball award as the best player, but Mbappe took the Golden Boot with eight goals.
Messi told TyC Sports: “Obviously I wanted to close my career with this, I can’t ask for anything anymore. Thank God, he gave me everything. Closing almost my career like this, it’s incredible.”
Messi knows his career is winding down, and he put in the work to make sure he was in prime shape for one last shot at the World Cup.
His emotional reaction after the final whistle, kissing the trophy at the first opportunity, reflected how dearly Messi wanted this moment.
A double in the final meant Messi became the highest-scoring South American player in major international tournaments with 26 goals – 13 in the World Cup as many in the Copa America. That took him one goal ahead of Brazil great Ronaldo, who previously held the record.
“After this, what will there be? I was able to get the Copa America, World Cup… It came to me almost at the end,” Messi said
“I enjoy being in the national team, the group, I want to continue living a few more games being world champion.
“It’s every little kid’s dream, I was lucky to have achieved everything and what I was missing is here.”