LIONEL MESSI dedicated Argentina’s emphatic Copa America triumph to Diego Maradona and reckons he was with them every step of the way.
And he believes the country’s tragic hero Maradona was cheering them on from beyond the grave.
The Argentine mega-star also paid tribute to his family, friends and countrymen for their perseverance throughout the Covid pandemic.
Messi shared his emotions in an open letter which was posted on Instagram alongside a compilation of his four goals and five assists throughout the tournament.
The 34-year-old wrote: “I want to dedicate this achievement to my family who always gave me the strength to continue.
“To my friends who I love so much, and to all the people who support us and especially the 45 million Argentinians who suffered so badly with this bloody coronavirus, above all those who suffered it personally.
“And of course this win also goes to Diego who I’m sure was cheering us on where ever he is.”
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But he couldn’t have spurred Argentina to victory without his team-mates, who he said he couldn’t be more proud of.
This was evident when Messi missed a sitter in the 88th minute but it didn’t matter as Angel Di Maria’s early strike in the first half secured Argentina’s victory in the end.
After their win, Messi was overwhelmed with a huge sense of pride for his country and thanked God for making him Argentinian.
He added: “It was an incredible cup.
“We know that we need to improve many things, but the truth is that the boys gave everything and I couldn’t be prouder of being lucky enough to be captain of this wonderful group.
“Thank you God for everything you gave me and thank you for having made me Argentinian.”
But he also warned his fellow Argentinians that in order to be able to savour their newly-won Copa America trophy they’ll have to keep looking after themselves as Covid still runs rife in the country.
Messi continued: “To be able to continue celebrating, we have to keep on looking after ourselves.
“Let’s not forget there’s a long way to go still before we can return to normality and we can take advantage of this happiness to gain a bit more strength to fight together against this virus.”
Now that Messi’s finally won his first international trophy after winning everything possible domestically with Barcelona, he’ll now have to deal with all the hysteria around his career.
He became football’s hottest free agent when his Barca contract came to an end in June.
After two decades at the Nou Camp, the club’s icon could be on his way to a new destination as Barca reportedly cannot afford to meet his demands.
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One thing Messi isn’t short on is offers and he’s been linked with a move to European heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.
Being a free agent is hitting Messi’s pockets hard as it’s been reported that he’s losing £86,000 A DAY since his Barca deal expired.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding his future, Barca boss Ronald Koeman says he has “full confidence” in president Joan Laporta’s ability to re-sign their star man despite the club’s financial crisis.