Iniesta: GOAT debate not over with Messi World Cup feat

Spain legend, Andres Iniesta, says Lionel Messi’s World Cup win will not settle the debate on who the greatest ever footballer is, even if he believes his former teammate holds that title.

Messi, 35, has long been considered among the best of all time, but many felt he needed a World Cup to cement his status just like his predecessors, Pele and Diego Maradona.

Iniesta, who spent over a decade playing alongside Messi at Barcelona, said the forward’s stand­ing in the game will remain the subject of debate despite Argen­tina’s thrilling win against France on Sunday, with Messi scoring two goals in the 3-3 draw and another in the penalty shootout.

• Lionel Messi

“For me, Messi is the best with or without winning a World Cup,” Iniesta told ESPN at the launch of the new Capitten football boots, the brand owned by the Vissel Kobe midfielder.

“I think the fact that he has won a World Cup, more than what other people think, is a huge source of happiness for himself. Not just for him, but for Argentina as a country. They are always in the running and the fact they’ve won it in the way they did makes it totally deserved.

“I am sure anyone who doesn’t view Messi as the best will find an excuse to keep seeing it that way, regardless of whether he won the World Cup or not.”

Messi opened the scoring against France in Qatar, but then watched on as two Kylian Mbappe goals took the finals into extra time.

The Argentina captain thought he had won it with a second goal in extra time, only for Paris Saint-Germain teammate, Mbappe, to equalise and take the game to a penalty shootout, where Argentina prevailed.

“I think it was the best ever finals, in terms of goals, emotions, everything that happened in the game, the twists,” Iniesta added.

“It was clearly an amazing game for the fans and was worthy of a World Cup finals”

Argentina’s triumph contrasted with a round of 16 exit for Spain, who last won the tournament in 2010 thanks to Iniesta’s winning goal against the Netherlands.

Spain’s defeat to Morocco has reopened the debate on the country’s style of play, with many critical of their possession-based strategy as they were eliminated before the quarterfinals of the third World Cup in a row.

“I think the model has to stay the same,” Iniesta said. “At the end of the day, a model of play is good if you’re able to give 100%. The game against Morocco was not lost because of the model or not, but because other things were lacking to win the game.

“I think the idea has to remain. The only thing is every game is different and you have to try and find solutions on a game-to-game basis. From there, the debate will always exist because there are so many small details that can change games. –ESPN

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