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SPORTS | 14-12-2022 11:29

World Cup winner Jorge Burruchaga: ‘Messi has been the best in the world for 20 years’

Jorge Burruchaga, the scorer of the goal that last won the World Cup for Argentina, professes his admiration for Lionel Messi.

Jorge Burruchaga secured his place in Argentina’s footballing history as the scorer of the goal that gave the country its second and – until now – its last World Cup title, in Mexico 1986.

Speaking from Doha in Qatar, on the sidelines of the 2022 World Cup, the ex-attacking midfielder and forward shared his admiration for Albiceleste captain Lionel Messi, who he hopes can emulate him in Sunday's final.

Burruchaga, now aged 60, scored in the 84th minute of Argentina’s 1986 final clash with West Germany at the Azteca stadium, writing a page of history for the 'Maradona generation.' 

Messi, at 35, has one last chance to repeat that glory and bring the cup back to Argentina.

 

Does the Messi of Qatar 2022 carry the weight of the Maradona of 1986?

Without a doubt. Just as [then-coach Carlos] Bilardo told us, from the very first moment in those eight years we lived with him, the national team was [Diego] Maradona and 10 more, this national team is Messi and 10 more. 

He has been the best in the world for 20 years. He's playing in a different way, a different way for his age and the team he has around him. He's more of an assist man, he's making his touches, but perhaps less frequently than eight or four years ago. In Brazil [when Argentina won the Copa América title in 2021], he took that weight off his shoulders and now we're seeing another Messi.

 

Will Messi's status in history change if he doesn't win the World Cup on Sunday?

That should never be a question, Messi is not going to be more or less than Maradona, or anyone else, whether he wins it or loses it. 

Messi is going to be [remembered] in history. There are five players who in the last 70 years have been the best in world history: [Alfredo] Di Stéfano, Johan Cruyff, Pelé, Maradona and Messi. Four of them are South Americans. Messi is going to be there [in that conversation], whether he wins it or not.

I hope he wins the World Cup, which is what we want as Argentines. Mainly because of him, in his last challenge, because of so much criticism that was thrown at him, [the criticism] that he didn't feel the shirt. He's 35 years old and he's still like a boy of 20.

 

How did you see Argentina's semi-final win over Croatia?

It was a great game from Argentina. Except for the first 25 minutes, where there was a game and they [Croatia] dominated the game by having the ball. The two goals before half-time were decisive and the second half was a one-way game, in which Argentina were a real team, with Messi at his best. The team needed it, they showed it, they did it and the team is one match away.

 

What did that historic goal in the 1986 World Cup Final mean to you?

It was the happiest moment of my life. But let's face it, the coverage wasn't the same as it is now, the numbers weren't the same as they are now (laughs). Today everything is much more massive, today everything spreads much faster. 

But there is no doubt that I keep it in my heart, I keep it in my mind when I want to remember and think about it now and again, and even more so at this stage of the World Cup. It's been 36 years, that’s half my life. I’m happy to have achieved what very few have achieved.

 

What was returning to Argentina like after that victory in Mexico?

Bilardo forced us to return to Argentina after the World Cup [campaigns]. It was magnificent because when you see your country, which welcomes you, with the fans of all the Argentine football teams and all levels together. There is no better reward than seeing the joy of those people, young and old, who were happy with something you could give them. Football, especially in Argentina, makes us forget the problems we have. The month of the World Cup is a unique month and that's how it's being experienced now.

 

How do you rate the football at this World Cup in Qatar so far?

So far, I didn't like the World Cup very much. I didn't see many great games, honestly, except for England's game against France [in the quarter-finals], which in my opinion was the best game because the game was good for 90 minutes. It was the game that deserved an extra time – if only [England's Harry] Kane had scored that penalty at the end. Otherwise I didn't see any great games, they were flat. You thought the players were going to be more rested and I saw teams walking on the pitch. I didn't see great individual performances. Neymar was injured, [Cristiano] Ronaldo didn't play. It was a strange World Cup. Germany went out fast and the favourites lost at least one game. I don't think it was a good World Cup.

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by Diego Reniares, AFP

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