The long-standing GOAT debate between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has finally come to an end after the Argentinian superstar lifts his country to the glorious World Cup championship.
In the football world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have often been regarded as the greatest players of all time. In fact, the 21st century has largely been dominated by this superhuman pair, who have won 12 Ballon d'Ors in the last fourteen years. The only two exceptions in the Messi - Ronaldo era are Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.
Together, Messi and Ronaldo have stunned the world with their brilliant performances. One thing remained open before the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, however, is which one of them is the GOAT of football? The debate had been going on for countless years, but it has certainly come to an end after Lionel Messi secures the highest glory with Argentina on Sunday.
A thrilling game between Argentina and France
Experts and fans alike from talkSPORT agree that the final match between Argentina and France - reigning champions from 2018, is certainly the greatest game in World Cup history.
The game, which saw the South American team dominate in the first half, witnessed a dramatic turn from France with their miraculous last-ditch attempts. Messi scored twice in the final, but Mbappe's incredible brace forced the game into extra time. And while the 7-time Ballon d'Or winner scored in extra time, that was not enough for Argentina as Mbappe finished his astonishing hattrick.
In the penalty shootout, Emiliano Martinez's superb save helped Argentina win the dramatic final in Qatar. With that, Lionel Messi also won his first, and possibly only World Cup championship title in his career. This trophy has lifted him to the rank of country legends such as Maradona, Pele, or Zinedine Zidane.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo and Portugal already exited Qatar after a humiliating defeat against dark horses Morocco.
Messi's superb performance
Throughout the tournament, it's fair to say that Messi was 50% of Argentina's capabilities. He single-handedly lifted the team in every single match, producing a number of brilliant tournaments. With 7 goals and 2 assists, the Paris Saint-German star narrowly missed out on the Golden Boot award, which was given to France's Mbappe with 8 goals.
That tally, however, already helps Messi break several records. With 21 World Cup goals and assists in 26 appearances, the Argentinian talisman has become the most contributing footballer in the World Cup's history. He's also the only man to have scored in the group stage, last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final of the same tournament, according to Fox News.
The GOAT debate is over
The World Cup trophy is enough to complete Messi's illustrious trophy cabinet - a picture-perfect ending for the legend. In the space of 18 months, he has won the Copa America, Finalissma, and the World Cup.
Owing to Messi's superb performance at the 2022 World Cup, he was awarded the Golden Ball for being the most outstanding player of the World Cup. This is the second time he received the award after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Argentina were beaten 1-0 in the final by Germany.
Previous World Cup Golden Ball winners include Luka Modric and Diego Forlan. Sadly, Cristiano Ronaldo has never played a World Cup final in his career, let alone won a Golden Ball award.
List of previous Golden Ball winners
2018: Luka Modric, Croatia
2014: Lionel Messi, Argentina
2010: Diego Forlán, Uruguay
2006: Zinedine Zidane, France
2002: Oliver Kahn, Germany