Lionel “Leo” Messi is now a FIFA World Cup champion, potentially cementing his status in the eyes of most football fans as one of his sports the greatest players ever.
The 35-year-old Argentinian has a box full of trophies, including a record seven Ballon d’Or awards, presented to international soccer player of the year by France’s France Football magazine. The only major item missing was the World Cup trophy until Sunday, when Messi’s Argentina beat France on penalties 4-2 after a dramatic extra time.
But being recognized as GOAT – which stands for the greatest player of all time – has never been Messi’s goal.
Messi: “Whether I become the best or not won’t change anything.” told France Football last year. “And I never tried to be either.”
Instead of dreaming of becoming a soccer superstar as a child, he focused on achieving smaller goals, completing them one by one before moving on to the next, he said.
“I fought for my dreams,” Messi said. “Initially, I wanted to be a professional footballer. After that, I try to surpass myself and achieve new goals every year.”
The approach sounds familiar: It’s reminiscent of psychologist Carol Dweck’s theory of growth mindset, which argues that talent is just the starting point.
“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most fundamental abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work,” Dweck wrote in her 2015 study titled “Growth”.
Many non-athletes advocate their own versions of a growth mindset, from billionaires Mark Cuba to the actor Will Smith. Studies show that students who are taught a “growth mindset” by educators can improve their test scores more than their peers, over time.
Of course, Messi has always been a talented athlete, even a children who was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency at the age of 11. But small superstar, 5 foot 7, has always been adamant that a strong work ethic is the key to his continued success.
He brought in long day of training“day after day, year after year,” to keep advanced on the football field, he has been noted in previous interviews. And although he has long been recognized as a global superstar, it took him around 16 years in five World Cup tournaments to finally claim his elusive prize.
The new trophy adds to his significant collection, in addition to the huge earnings he has earned during his 18-year career. He is the highest paid athlete in the world in 2022, making about 130 million USD this year, according to Forbes.
That includes about $75 million in base salary from his club team, Paris Saint-Germain, and $55 million from endorsements and other off-field efforts, Forbes estimates.
In other words, being the best is very lucrative. But in his interview with France Football, Messi insists that being one of the game’s all-time greats was never his original intention – rather, it is the result of his past. The process of working hard to amplify natural talent over the years.
“For me, just being considered one of the best players in the world is more than enough,” he said. “It’s something I never dared to imagine or dream of.”
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