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With the World Cup’s all-singing, all-dancing, all-bribing traveling circus set for its four-year voyage to Russia, we can finally speculate about outrageous transfer activity, whether Shaktar Donetsk will be able to field a team, and offer a post-mortem for what should be considered a successful tournament.
One of the most common diagnostics coming out of the World Cup appears to be surrounding Messi’s caliber, or lack thereof.
The final seemed set for the mercurial Argentine to finally join the likes of Pele and Maradona and be truly recognized as one of the greats of the game, but evidently the Germans hadn’t read the script and went on to defeat Argentina 1-0.
After the curtain came down and the awards were given, social media seemed be saying two things: 1) Players win games, teams win tournaments; and 2) Messi will never be considered a great like Maradona, Pele or Zidane.
Although both statements are true in the sense that they are held as common beliefs in the collective public imagination, they aren’t quite accurate.
If you look at the Germany team it would be difficult to say that any player single-handedly won the tournament, but in the years to come history will demand such a person.
As our memory becomes hazy, or learnt even, it becomes more and more difficult to really associate with the team. The narrative essentially has to be simplified so that we can identify a country’s World Cup triumph with a single player.
Zidane, Pele and Maradona were all fantastic players, but they retrospectively become more and more fantastic as time goes on. It’s just the nature of how we process history, where mere mortals like Winston Churchill are turned into a formal Godzilla-come-Stay Puft Marshmallow Man towering over the skies of London and crushing German planes between his hands.
If Mario Goetze goes on to fulfill his potential and become a fantastic player, win another World Cup even, it wouldn’t be surprising to see commentators generations hence earnestly telling audiences about what a breathtaking tournament Goetze had.