Messi vs Mbappe: It’s The Old Guard Against The New Order
Sunday’s World Cup final in many ways, symbolises the end of an era internationally whilst fully ushering in a new era of potentially long individual dominance…
Written By Onyeka Daniel
It’s been almost one month of total action at the FIFA World Cup happening in Qatar and it will culminate on Sunday when defending champions France take on Argentina for a chance to lift the trophy. For this game, it is a battle between two great footballing continents (Europe vs CONMEBOL) with Europe having 12 World Cup trophies as against South America with 9 trophies.
Interestingly, both teams have won the World Cup twice, but it’s the battle between French world class forward, Kylian Mbappe and Argentina talisman, Lionel Messi that will be the main talking point for this game. Messi represents the old guard while Mbappe represents a new order and in this epic battle that could have resounding effects on their career albeit in different ways, they will take to the field with different personal targets in mind.
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They both play for French club, PSG and have won many trophies in their careers, but that’s where their similarities end. Messi started his football with Argentine club, Newell’s Old Boys before being snapped up by Barcelona at a young age in the year 2000. Since then, he has been with the Catalan club, moving from the academy to the senior team. While at the club, he has won 7 Ballon d’Or awards, winning it four times in a row from the 2008/09 season but it’s not just at club level that he’s been phenomenal.
After his senior debut for Argentina in August 2005, Messi became the youngest Argentine to play and score in a FIFA World Cup in 2006, and reached the final of the 2007 Copa América, where he was named young player of the tournament. He has since drawn comparisons with the great Diego Maradona with his style of play and impact.
He also led Argentina to three consecutive finals: the 2014 FIFA World Cup, for which he won the Golden Ball, and the 2015 and 2016 Copa América, winning the Golden Ball in 2015. In 2016, he announced his retirement from international football, seemingly giving up on his dream of winning the World Cup, but he reversed his decision and led his country to qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where he would go on to lose in the quarterfinal to a France team that had Mbappe in it.
In fact, it was Mbappe who scored 2 extra time goals to help the Les Blues over the Albiceleste in Russia four years ago. A third-place finish at the 2019 Copa América, and a win at last year’s edition of the same tournament, while winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot award should set the tone for Messi to win this final this time around.
Mbappe meanwhile, started out with French club, AS Bondy before moving on to Monaco, where he played for their youth team before joining up with the senior team in 2015. He won the French Ligue 1 title with the club before he was snapped up by PSG in In 2017, aged 18 initially on loan before joining permanently a year later for a transfer fee worth €180 million, making him the second-most-expensive player and most expensive teenage player ever.
While the two players seem to be on the same trajectory, they’ve got varying degree of success. Messi has had a more successful career on club level while Mbappe seems to achieve more for France, but with age on his side, no one would put it past him to go on to win the UEFA Champions League that has eluded him so far with the Parisian club.
At national team level, Mbappé made his senior debut for France in 2017, at age 18 and he quickly made his mark at the 2018 FIFA World Cup where he became the youngest French player to score at a World Cup, and became the second teenager, after Pelé, to score in a World Cup final.
He finished as the joint second-highest goalscorer as France won the tournament, and won FIFA World Cup Best Young Player and French Player of the Year for his performances. At club level, the duo have faced off only twice, a match-up that saw the Frenchman come out victorious in the two-legged encounter.
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Its easy to predict that Mbappe would come out top on Sunday based on the results from previous meetings between both superstars, but with Messi confirming that this will be his last World Cup appearance, it’s even easier to predict that the diminutive Argentine and his teammates will be extra determined to take the trophy back to Buenos Aires.
While the whole World watches on as the two teams battle each other for the opportunity to add a third star to their jersey, for Messi, it is a chance to cement his status as the ‘greatest of all time’ with football’s most prestigious trophy, having won every conceivable trophy there is as a top player except for the World Cup. His club teammate Mbappe on the other hand, could become the first player since Pele to win two World Cups by the age of 23 after the country’s triumph four years ago in Russia.
The World Cup final on Sunday will be significant for many reasons, top of which would be the handing over of the baton from one of the legends of his generation and possibly the greatest footballer of all time to another football superstar who looks well on his way to surpass every record set and perhaps make a name for himself as the undisputed greatest.
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