Former Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that Lionel Messi is now the leader of the Argentina national team after his impressive showing in Qatar.
The Argentina captain, alongside France’s Kylian Mbappe, is the joint top goalscorer in the ongoing World Cup, as both have five goals to their name, heading into the final in Qatar.
However, Pochettino has revealed that the 35-year-old’s contributions are beyond goals. According to the former Argentina international, Messi’s leadership on and off the pitch has set him above the rest.
“He knows exactly how he needs to behave, not only on the pitch but off it as well,” Pochettino wrote as a guest writer for The Athletic.
“And I think that leadership he is showing is why people finally believe this could be the time when the World Cup comes back to Argentina.
“You can see it in how he manages the game, how he talks with the referees, with Lionel Scaloni, even with the opponents.
“After the quarter-final against the Netherlands, when Argentina won on penalties, I heard some people comparing Messi’s leadership with the leadership that Maradona used to show.”
“Messi is now the leader that Argentina need, and for me, that is a massive step for him,” he added.
Messi could win the World Cup Golden Ball if he can put in another stellar performance in the final and finally get his hands on the prestigious international prize.
But beyond winning individual awards, his former manager is more pleased that people are finally seeing the ‘real Messi’ during the major tournament in Qatar.
“It’s not just the performances, which are what we expect. People think he is quiet, but sometimes what you perceive from the outside is wrong.
“He has a very strong character. He doesn’t talk too much, but he talks when he needs to. Maybe we see him talking more now because of the cameras and the technology.
“We are seeing the real Messi. He was always like this. People like to talk in myths, and we all know there are a lot of those in football.
“Right now, Messi is performing at his best in every single area, and when you have that on your side, only good things can happen.”