RIO DE JANEIRO—
Lionel Messi must now set his sights on Russia in 2018 as he seeks to cap an already stellar career by leading Argentina to World Cup glory.
FIFA awarded 27-year-old Messi the 'Golden Ball' as the top player of the World Cup on Sunday, but Barcelona forward said it was a “sad prize” and added the only thing he wanted to lift was the trophy for Argentina.
“Today was the day to win the World Cup,” said Messi on Sunday after Germany won the trophy for the fourth time with a 1-0 victory against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final.
His leadership of the South American team will be even more important in four years time with mentor Javier Mascherano likely to play a less prominent role in the future.
Messi has always leaned on Mascherano, who handed over the team's captaincy to him, but the Barcelona midfielder will turn 34 before the next World Cup and may not be around for long.
Four-times world player of the year Messi has won almost every trophy possible in his club career with Barcelona.
For his national team, however, he has failed to match the achievements of other all-time greats such as fellow Argentine Diego Maradona, Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil's Pele, all of whom have World Cup winner's medals.
“I think Lionel reached the pantheon of the greats a while back,” Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella told reporters after the match.
But one dream remains, to lift the World Cup at his fourth attempt.