Argentina's Lionel Messi gestures during a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 against Paraguay at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023.

Lionel Messi was inches away from the one thing he HASN’T achieved in football

There are very few things Lionel Messi hasn’t achieved during his career.

League titles and Champions League trophies are a given. It’s also less than a year since Messi almost single-handedly dragged Argentina to World Cup glory in what was the Strongbow Dark Fruit lads’ equivalent of Molly Mae getting engaged.

And then there’s also the personal accolades. The 50-goal seasons, the numerous Ballon d’Ors and his claim to being the greatest footballer of all-time strengthening like a vice with each passing year.

But Messi has never scored directly from a corner. Fraud.

In fairness, there’s only been one Olimpico scored in World Cup history, which came in the black-and-white era of 1962 when beaten goalkeeper Lev Yashin was probably lighting a cigarette rather than defending his near post.

And Messi has netted 65 times from direct free-kicks, proving he’s no stranger to manipulating a dead ball like Harry Potter speaking parseltongue.

Perhaps the 36-year-old has simply been sparing the undignified scenes on Twitter that would surely ensue if he ticked an Olimpico from his bucket list.

Close your eyes and imagine skin-crawling tactics and Football Away Day lads united in collective orgasm as clips of the beaten goalkeeper become a meme quicker than pictures of Luton’s away end. Apologies for ruining your morning.

But Messi almost caused Armageddon during Argentina’s 1-0 win over Paraguay in a tightly-contested World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aries.

Having been unable to start the match, Messi entered proceedings early in the second half and clipped the post with a swerving free-kick.

And the world champions were already ahead through Nicolas Otamendi’s spectacular volley when they won a corner in the 76th minute.

Both team-mates and opponents jostled like inebriated stags outside Tiger Tiger at 3am, each determined not to give their adversary an inch or have their masculinity denounced.

You’d have expected Messi to pick out an Argentinian head with a laser-point delivery, but the little genius conjured up a shot on goal instead. Best to keep everyone guessing.

The ball arced itself remorselessly towards the goal, with Paraguay goalkeeper Carlos Coronel floundering like a government minister being interviewed on This Morning.

Alas, Messi was denied by that pesky far post. If you look closely, you can see gorgeous footage of Coronel b*llocking his defenders and the referee as all goalkeepers do when they know they’ve screwed up.

Messi had previously poured cold water on his chances of representing Argentina at the 2026 tournament in North America, but speaking to Argentinian comedian Migue Granados on OLGA, the attacker did not immediately rule out the prospect.

However, Messi wants to focus purely on the upcoming Copa America – which takes place in the summer of 2024 – before deciding on his World Cup future, saying: “I’ve already said.

“It still seems a long way away. Yes, my goal is to play in the Copa America, which is also here in the United States and next year. After, we’ll see.

“It principally depends on how I’m feeling. We’ll have to see about the league here, the level of competition. I don’t know.”

The playmaker will be 39 by the time the next World Cup kicks off and nobody would begrudge him tucking into some empanadas and watching the games from the swankiest of hospitality boxes.

Then again, if he hasn’t scored an Olimpico by the summer of 2026, don’t bet against him lacing his boots and doggedly trying to tick off the last entry of his footballing bucket list.

By Michael Lee

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