Success at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar allowed Lionel Messi to join the list of legends in football who have lifted the trophy in the sport. Argentina got the better of France on penalties in the final after the game finished 3-3 following extra time.
Here is a look at some of the greatest World Cup players in history, starting with the Argentine magician.
ARGENTINA WIN THE WORLD CUP 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/KG97ZV4wGx— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 18, 2022
As a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, many football fans consider Lionel Messi to be the greatest player of all time. The only thing he needed to match some of the biggest stars in history was a World Cup win and he now finally has that.
Messi was named the Golden Ball winner in Qatar for his performances for his country. The Argentina captain scored in every knockout stage round of the tournament, including a brace in the final over France. He has become the only player in history to win the Golden Ball at two World Cups, as he also won the award in 2014 as Reuters reported.
The 35-year-old found the back of the net on seven occasions in total during the tournament, which was bettered only by Kylian Mbappe, who finished with eight goals. Messi also held his nerve in the shoot-out against France to put his penalty away, just like he did in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands.
This World Cup victory ensures whatever happens now in Messi’s career, he has had major success in a club and international football. It is the second tournament success in two years for this current crop of Argentina players, as they also won Copa America in 2021, beating rivals Brazil in the final, as reported by the BBC.
Messi has chosen to continue playing for his national team despite this success. It remains to be seen how much longer he will be able to do that. As of the 20th of December, Argentina is currently priced at odds of 8/1 in the outright markets with Betway to defend their crown at the 2026 World Cup.
Brazil legend Pele is the only player in history that has won three World Cups. He was part of his country’s success in 1958, 1962, and 1970. With 77 goals in 92 appearances for Brazil, he is their joint-highest goalscorer.
Pele has been named the Player of the Century (20th century) by various votes and polls conducted in football. In a career that spanned from 1956 through to 1977, he scored 1,279 career goals, which is recognised as a Guinness World Record.
The forward, who began his career with Santos, scored in two World Cup finals, and he has inspired many generations to follow in his footsteps for the Brazil national team.
When you look back at the greatest World Cup moments in history, many of them include Diego Maradona. His goal at the 1986 World Cup against England is just one of those. The former Napoli star picked the ball up in his own half before dribbling past several players. The Argentine then had the composure to beat goalkeeper Peter Shilton. It was voted the Goal of the Century in 2002 in a poll carried out by FIFA.
Maradona lifted the World Cup in 1986 after Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 in the final. He scored five goals at that tournament in Mexico, and he was named the Golden Ball winner.
The player nicknamed El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy) featured in a total of four World Cup tournaments between 1982 and 1994. He also managed his country at the 2010 event in South Africa.
German Franz Beckenbauer is one of only three men who has won the World Cup as a player and manager. He was successful at the 1972 tournament as a player, while in 1990, he led his country to the trophy as their manager.
Today, 41 years ago: Win against the Netherlands! WORLD CHAMPION! A great moment! pic.twitter.com/rSVFrho2zE— Franz Beckenbauer (@beckenbauer) July 7, 2015
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner, an award recognised by FIFA, was a versatile player who could play as a defender or midfielder. He featured for West Germany at the 1966, 1970 and 1974 World Cups.
Beckenbauer finished his career with over 100 caps for West Germany. Der Kaiser, as he was nicknamed, was voted into the World Team of the 20th Century as a centre-back. He was a great leader on the pitch for his country and someone who proved consistent throughout his career.
All four of the above men have set the standard for others to follow and if they can get close to the standards shown by the greats, they too may join this list in the future.