Star footballer Lionel Messi led Argentina to an emphatic victory against France in the final game of the FIFA World Cup 2018. What followed was an emotional downpour of football fans across the globe. Messi has been a household name among football fans for over a decade due to his heroics for his club teams – Spanish club FC Barcelona earlier and currently Paris Saint – Germain Football Club of France. As an Argentinian footballer, Messi has often been regarded as the successor of the legacy of another Argentinian great Diego Maradona.
One interesting discussion that arose among cricket fans after Argentina’s tournament victory is the parallels between the legends of Sachin Tendulkar and Lionel Messi. Messi shares his jersey number 10 with the all-time great Indian batsman popularly known as Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar. Is the jersey number the only similarity between the two sporting icons or there is some substance to this analogy?
Born geniuses – meant to rule the sports
Both Messi and Tendulkar made it big early in their careers debuting for their respective teams at an age of just above 16 years old. The two greats don’t look naturally athletic with a small physical stature but they impressed the audience with their talents. While Sachin made his First-class appearance in the Ranji Trophy for his home side Bombay when he was barely 14 years old, he impressed the selectors with his batting, and in the subsequent two years, he was selected for the national side and there has been no looking back for him since then. Messi, on the other hand, started with the youth teams of the Spanish Football Club Barcelona gradually moving on to the senior side by his 18th birthday.
1994-1999 saw the peak batting performance from Sachin Tendulkar when he continuously rose through the ranks. He was the top scorer in the 1996 cricket world cup and the remarkable Desert Storm innings against Australia in Sharjah cricket ground also came in this period. Tendulkar dominated the world’s best bowlers like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Wasim Akram in this phase of his career and was regarded as one of the world’s best batsmen contemporarily in the league of greats such as Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting. Master Blaster went on to smash a number of prevailing records in international cricket such as the highest number of runs, the highest number of centuries etc. Messi’s career trajectory was also quite similar.
He contributed significantly to Barcelona’s first treble (title victory in the three prestigious football tournaments – La Liga, Copa Del Rey and UEFA Champions League) in the 2008-09 season and won his first Ballon d’Or (reputed annual football award) in the next season. In the subsequent seasons, he won multiple La Liga and Champions League trophies for Barcelona and became a poster boy of football rivaling Christiano Ronaldo. To date, Messi has won the Ballon d’Or trophy for a record seven times. He has also won the Golden Boot award six times, the maximum for any player.
Similarity between the world cup campaigns
Both Messi and Tendulkar achieved so many feats and received multiple awards and accolades for their eminent contributions to the two sports. However, their careers would have remained incomplete without a World Cup victory. The 2011 cricket world cup was a historic moment for India and Tendulkar in particular when he finally got to lift the marquee trophy in his sixth and final world cup appearance. Individually, Tendulkar’s contribution to India’s dream run in the world cup was significant as he was the highest run scorer for India and second highest overall in that tournament. Before 2011, Team India and Sachin got very close to winning the trophy in 2003 when they made it to the finals but that defeat against Australia was etched in every Indian cricket fan’s memory who wanted to see Sachin lift the trophy once.
Messi’s football world cup journey has been eerily similar when he got his national side Argentina a step away from the title in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, unfortunately losing out to Germany in the final game. Just like Tendulkar, the latest FIFA World Cup seemed destined for Messi to win the trophy once before hanging his boots for his team. Messi contributed six goals for his team which was the highest for Argentina and second highest in the tournament. Argentinian fans have been waiting for the World Cup victory since 1986 just as Indian cricket fans waited since 1983 and in both cases, maximum hopes were pinned on the two-star players – jersey number 10 Lionel Messi and Sachin Tendulkar.
Another interesting similarity between the two icons is that they considered retiring earlier. Sachin pondered upon retirement in 2007 when the West Indian great Sir Vivian Richards suggested he continue playing. Lionel Messi also shocked his fans by announcing his international retirement after the final of the 2016 Copa America. However, upon a massive campaign by his fans across Argentina and globally, he took back his retirement and returned to play for Argentina in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Just as Sachin Tendulkar is synonymous with cricket, Lionel Messi has established his legacy as one of the all-time greats of football and made his name synonymous with the game. A popular modern lingo G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) is being used these days for Messi while Sachin Tendulkar is often regarded as the God Of Cricket. Without a doubt, the two greats have imprinted their statures in sports and immortalized the Jersey Number 10 for good.