Messi: a “rockstar”, a “simple man”, two legends

Messi: a “rockstar”, a “simple man”, two legends

Two extraordinary players, two aliens“Journalist Florent Torchut, author of Messi’s biography”King Leo”, published by Solar (2022), does not go overboard to talk about two legends of Argentine football, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Two number ten, in the center of attention after Argentina’s victory in the World Cup final on Sunday December 18 against France on penalties (3-3, 2-4 tab). With this triumph, the man with seven Ballons d’Or, Lionel Messi, is perhaps the best player of the 21st century. Diego Maradona, nicknamed “The Golden Kid”, had offered this same reward to his country, in 1986, 36 years earlier. He died in 2020.

Maradona was much more than just a footballer, a kind of rockstar, with his quirks.Florent Torchut, author of Messi’s biography Le Roi Leo

Small size, left foot, dribbler. We constantly compared them”, recalls Florent Torchut, who is the last journalist to have interviewed Diego Maradona and knows Lionel Messi personally. But “King Leo” hardly accepts the comparison. “Messi always told me, I’m doing my career, I’m trying to be the best player, explains the journalist. I fight against myself, but I don’t compare myself to others, especially not to Diego.“Despite their shared successes, the two men are very different on a human level.

Two players with “opposing personalities”

Maradona was much more than just a footballer, a kind of rockstar, with his failings”, says Florent Torchut. “He had great self-confidence from a young age.” A shell that he takes from a difficult past. Born in a neighborhood of Buenos Aires forgotten by the state, the player had to take on the role of head of the family. Thanks to him, his eight brothers and sisters came out of poverty. “When you start your life with that on your shoulders, it gives you a sense of responsibility. I always say that Maradona had no youth”, analyzes Florent Torchut. Of a committed nature, the Argentinian assumes an outspokenness and very marked political ideas.“Jam white or black. I will never be gray in my life”, he said. Messi is much more introverted.

The simplicity of Messi compared to what he does on the pitch is incredible.Florent Torchut, author of Messi’s biography Le Roi Leo

Messi’s life next to football is almost boringexplains the journalist. He is someone who likes his routine, as he told me for the last interview for the Ballon d’Or. He enjoys spending time with his family, playing cards with his friends, watching cartoons with his children. We are very far from the escapades of Maradona. The simplicity of this guy compared to what he does on the ground, it’s incredible, adds Florent Torchu. But his experience over the competitions and his paternity helped him a lot to step back and be more sure of himself.“A simple man, leading a normal life, who bet everything on football performance. He waited years before obtaining the recognition of the people, contrary to the “rockstar” from 1986.

Lionel Messi's Argentina celebrates winning the FIFA World Cup Final against France at Lusail Stadium, Qatar, Sunday, December 18, 2022.

Two love stories with Argentinians

Maradona has always been a political object for Argentines. His career took off in full military dictatorship (1976-1983). “He was very young, very strong, analyzes Alexandre Juillard, journalist and author of “Maradona” (2010) at Hugo Sport and “Unsinkable Messi” (2017) published by Solar.

The military dictatorship needed Maradona so that every Sunday people would be happy to see a phenomenon.Alexandre Juillard, author of Maradona and Unsinkable Messi

“The military dictatorship needed him so that every Sunday people would be happy to see a phenomenon, adds the journalist. He represented the pride of Argentines: thanks to him, Argentina could be known all over the planet”, adds Alexandre Juillard. However, the Maradona myth is not necessarily unanimous in the country, echoing his verbal slippages, positive doping controls in 1991 when he played in Naples in Italy and in 1994 during the American World Cup, or even his addiction to cocaine . “Maradona went through very difficult times. People say he’s an exceptional person. Others criticize him a lot.

Diego Maradona captain of the Argentine soccer team spreads his arms following his team's victory over Yugoslavia in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Florence, Italy on June 30, 1990.

Messi’s experience is much less controversial. But he never played in the Argentine first division, which is not to the liking of all Argentines. He started football in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina, before joining FC Barcelona at the age of thirteen, at a time when the unprecedented crisis was raging in Argentina, in the late 1990s.He is the reflection of an Argentina that was going badly at one point. He left because agents brought him there, for commercial purposes”, explains Alexandre Juillard.

Messi was asked straight away to win as well as he was earning at Barcelona, ​​but it was impossible.Alexandre Juillard, author of Maradona and Unsinkable Messi, published by Solar.

Reason why the young prodigy took much longer to be adored in the country. “Argentinians need to identify with Argentinian clubs, their players most often come from there, recalls the journalist. So, we asked him straight away to earn as well as what he was earning in Barcelona, ​​but it was impossible.“In 2021, after winning the Copa America, it’s relief.

In terms of stats and track records, it’s been a long time since Messi overtook Maradona, recalls Alexandre Juillard. Maradona didn’t win the Copa America, Messi did. Maradona didn’t win the Olympic Games, Messi did.” He lacked this title of World Champion, it’s done, like Maradona, in 1986.

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Two World Cup victories, two symbols

What happened in 1986 with Maradona is beyond comprehension. There were a lot of very symbolic things. They weren’t expected to win the World Cup, develops the journalist. In 1986, they built their victory on a feeling of alone against all. Even at home, it was said that it was a team that could not do anything.

36 years later, in 2022, a mystique has been created around the Argentinian team. They have only lost one game in two years, it was against Saudi Arabia (1-2) at the start of the World Cup in Qatar. “They were expected. Especially since for Messi, it may be his last World Cup, explains Alexandre Juillard. This final was the most important match of his career. For Maradona, on the other hand, there was still a lot to write about after 1986.

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With this victory, Messi has definitely entered the hearts of the Argentines. “But Maradona is more than a footballer, he is a popular icon, recalls Florent Torchut. When he was 18-20 years old, he had a Christlike head. It’s the best and the worst of the Argentinian. He was capable of extraordinary things on the pitch, on the other hand he was crafty, he had a hidden son, he had to fight. It’s been a romantic life. It is enshrined in popular memory. Messi remains a footballer. Once he takes off his shirt, he’s almost Mr. Everybody.